The first few times it happened in 2008, it was a mystery. We’d awake to the hummingbird feeder completely drained each morning, nectar splashed against the window.
So we set up our Cudde camera. And what we suspected was true:
Yep. Bats (with long tongues that CAN get down into the tiny hummingbird feeder holes). Who knew that nectar-eating bats existed?
Like clockwork they arrive in our yard each year — around late July or early August — before heading to Mexico for the winter.
This is another telltale sign of their arrival:
Meet the backyard bandits, thieves of our hummingbird nectar. They’re the migratory bats of southern Arizona: the Mexican long-tongued and the lesser long-nosed, the latter an endangered critter due to the annihilation of its food source: blooming columnar desert cacti and agave (homes and shopping malls have cropped up in their place).
These bats “are thought to follow the sequential blooming of certain flowers from south to north“ as they migrate. But they’ve also adapted; when plant nectar isn’t available, they seek our backyard feeders, traveling sometimes 25 miles one-way.
At the first sign of bats this year, I decided I should coerce hubby into an adventure: under the cover of darkness, we would photograph our visitors. Because there was so much guano, I figured I’d see dozens of them hanging eerily from the rafters.
With flashlights – and scanning for rattlers during our 10:30 p.m. trek – we went to the largest, most poop-infested porch first. And there they were! But only three. And they weren’t hanging upside down. They were “hugging” the rafters. The minute we shined the lights on them, they screeched and dive-bombed away (thank goodness I was wearing hubby’s ball cap. I didn’t want bats accidentally flying into my hair).
Needless to say, I captured zero photos. But fortunately, biology professor and coordinator of The Bats and Hummingbird Feeders Study, Ted Fleming, shared all of these wonderful images.
Yes, these leptos of ours (or maybe they are long-tongued bats?) are a bit of a nuisance with their droppings, making us wish we had chosen a dark-colored stain for our concrete patios.
But here’s why I’m willing to forgive the guano transgressions: we need these bats. They’re pollinators – and rare (There are only three U.S. species of nectar-foraging bats). The majority of the coutnry’s bats are insect catchers – specifically mosquito-eating machines, some gulping up to 1,000 in an hour. And as I mentioned: leptos are endangered. For obvious reasons, I dare not think what life would be like without our pollinators and insect eaters.
So for now, these leptos and me: we’ll co-exist, and I’ll clean bat poop every year (and consider moving the hummer feeder further away from the house).
And I’ll also do something else… I’ll help researchers like Ted (photographer, above) better understand them. I’m going to participate in a hummingbird-feeder monitoring study of the lesser long-nosed bat, aimed at better understanding its feeding and migratory habits. I’m SO excited!
For Writers: What parts of the writing process do you consider a nuisance – but know are vitally important to preserving the life of your story? Fact checking? Editing? Revision? Research?
For Readers: Do you find any ‘necessary nuisances’ in the books you read, or just plain straight-out nuisances? The obligatory love interest? The cliffhanger that goes nowhere? Melodrama? Shallow characters? What drives you batty?