Clemson Univesity Extension Service

Clemson Extension Agent Amanda McNulty talks with Lowndes Macdonald from The Nature Convervancy about their mission of using science to solve local and international environmental issues.

Bats and Agave

Feb 6, 2021
Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

We occasionally have had parties watching chimney swifts descend into a towering chimney right on the same part of the house where female mother bats emerge to feed  -- they look like mercury oozing out between the clapboards. – both activities happening at the same time as dusks falls.  When we can safely be together again, we’ll return to hosting these viewing parties where we serve margaritas. I’ve found that bats are the pollinators for the agave plants from which tequila is made. They migrate following the progression of plants coming into flower.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Clemson ecology experts T J Savareno and Ben Powell say that having some untidy parts of our yards  makes a home friendly to all types of wildlife – from snakes that eat rats, to insects that pollinate our food crops, and for bats that eat harmful agricultural pests and annoying and potentially disease carrying mosquitoes. Bats International says if you can safely leave a dead tree, the space between the bark and the wood is perfect for a bat to squeeze into for shelter or rest.

Bats Need a Warm Home

Feb 4, 2021
Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

DNR’s  Heritage sites are an overlooked treasure these days when being outdoors is a safe way to get a break from our restricted lifestyles. Recently, we visited Calhoun County’s Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve –saw three other people. There was a bat box there that was on pole maybe fourteen feet or so up in the air as bats need space to drop after leaving their roost before they can take flight. We were puzzled at the dark green color the box was painted – it seemed like it would be way too hot in the summer. But it turns out bats, even crowded together, need a great deal of warmth.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Our 190 year old house is not only home to us, but at certain times of the year to migrating chimney swifts and to bats, as a box soffit under the second story eaves serves as nurse colony. In spring, female bats enter through many of the cracks and cranies in this aging wooden house, spending their days nursing their babies, and leaving at dusk to hunt for insects – part if what makes them important parts of our ecology. They leave a small scattering of guano near an open window that may be part of how they enter.

My brother who lives to hunt, work in his woodshop and do outdoorsy things, got himself appointed to the “Homeowners Ground’s committee” where he had a beach apartment. Surrounded by ladies who came with girl friends for bridge weekends, his sole goal was to convince them to stop insisting that the maintenance crew remove palmetto leaves as soon as they started to turn brown, while half the leaf was still green.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

White nose syndrome is an introduced fungal infection that’s exerting huge pressure on certain of our bat species. Some bats require a long and deep hibernation when their body functions slow down dramatically to conserve resources. When infected with this fungus, which concentrates on their faces, giving a white appearance to their nose, it irritates the bats, causing them to wake up and go outside looking for food. Of course, during winter in the upstate, hunting insects is a futile task. At Stumphouse Tunnel, the number of tri-colored bats dropped from 400 to thirty.

How Bats Hunt

Jan 22, 2021
Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Flying around all night is pretty exhausting for bats and many of them roost for periods of time to conserve energy. Perch and wait is a strategy to sit, or rather hang upside down, until an insect flies by. Bats also use their incredible hearing to locate insects that are walking around on crop or tree leaves and then swoop down and pluck them off the actual plants.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

One way many bats find their supper is by flying around and emitting radar like sounds and listening to the signals that bounce off potential prey, a system called echolocation. The signals differ from species to species according to the bats’ body size, size of the intended prey and the sensitivity of that bat’s hearing. When a bat detects a potential meal is, it increases the frequency and zeros in. It’s pretty hard to catch an evasive insect on the wing with your mouth, and some bats have a structure, the uropatagium, they can use like a catcher’s mitt.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

In the United States, we have forty-seven species of bats with 14 found in South Carolina. Most US bats and all of our bats are insectivorous with spiders thrown in, too. As such, they are hugely beneficial. Agriculture is the driving force in South Carolina’s economy, and the estimate is that insect suppression from bats is worth one hundred fifteen million dollars a year just in our small state.  Maybe you’re not a farmer – how about that bats, especially the little brown bat, use mosquitoes as a major part of their diet, including many that carry West Nile Virus.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Bats are among the most misunderstood animals we encounter – or don’t encounter as many people have never seen a bat. But with the of onslaught of the pandemic, bats which are truly beneficial, have gotten a bad rap. Although bats do harbor a large number of corona viruses which don’t seem to make them sick, most scientists believe the virus mutated and infected an intermediary animal, perhaps the pangolin, and that animal transmitted the virus to humans. Bats cannot give Covid 19 to humans, but researchers fear that humans could transmit it to bats.

Clemson Extension Agent and Host Amanda McNulty talks with Jennifer Kindel at SC Department of Natural Resources to learn all about Bats!

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

The Audubon Society’s Francis Beidler Forest is the world’s largest untouched cypress-tupelo swamp, the perfect habitat for Prothonotary warblers, sometimes called swamp warblers. Specific birds have been tracked returning to the exact same hollowed out tre, year after year to build their nests. When a foot or two foot above water, these nests are less likely to be raided by racoons.

Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Jay Keck, who works for the South Carolina Wildlife Federation, called recently to thank me for re-upping my membership. As we chatted, he told me his group has partnered with Andrew Jackson High School whose students build bird boxes not only for screech owls but for Prothonotary warblers, as well.

Activities for Kids at the SC Botanical Gardens

Dec 24, 2020
Making It Grow Minute
SC Public Radio

Even if you don’t have a large yard, you can use a small raised bed or even containers on a balcony to give your kids a hands-on experience growing vegetables, cooking and eating them, and learning about their history and importance.

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