Naturalists will go batty at Thursday town forum
This month's Rockdale City Forum topic is appropriate for Halloween - all about bats. Not the scary ones, but the ones who are our helpers. The forum is set for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Patterson Center.
Most people barely notice the silent critters, flittering about nightly as they go hither and thitter feasting on insects we don't particularly like. Mosquitoes and moths form the basis of their diet, much to our relief.
Also, most people do not realize our lives without the bats would be quite different. Mosquitoes harboring some virulent diseases like malaria and dengue fever would be prevalent in Milam County.
Without the bats, moth populations would over run us. Pecan trees would have no natural predators for the webs of the moths we see in early summer. And the boll weevil, another favorite moth of the bats, would be a more severe problem, devastating the cotton crop.
So what is the problem, you ask. The bats are just doing their job. Let them be.
All is not well in bat world. A new fungus has invaded the bat populations in the Eastern U.S. It is called White Nose Syndrome after the appearance of white fungus on the bat's nose just prior to death.
It isa worst case scenario. Infected bat p opu la- tions experie ncea 90to100- p erc ent kill.
First noticedinNew York caves,thisfungus is working its way toward Texas. It is now in Tennessee w ith some unverified reports of it in Arkansas.
This month's forum will present the facts surrounding White Nose Syndrome. While there is no known remedy as of yet, the public can help by creating more roosting habitats for bats.
Rebecca Patterson, bat specialist from Bat Conservation International located in Austin, is a bat expert and bat enthusiast. She will tell about the bats in Milam County and teach how to provide more roost habitats for bats.
There will be bat houses on display, from the small ones for
your garage to the large bat "condos" housing 5,000 bats used in the commercial pecan groves. Live bats will also be on display for up close inspection in a safe environment.
The Milam County Master Naturalists, co-sponsors of the Forum, are focusing on bats and their habitats. They are trying to find ways to encourage bats to roost near their houses, helping to suppress the insect populations. They will be on hand to answer your questions as well.
If you haven't yet noticed, this month the Master Naturalists have a display in the Rockdale Library window featuring bats. Check it out.
This will be the last forum for this year. Thank sgiv ing and Christmas seasons are just around the corner.
If you have any questions, call city offices at 512-446-2511 or the Master Naturalist Chapter president Paul Unger 512-446-6715 or
email: paulunger5@sbcglobal. net.
Photo courtesy Bat Conservation International