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Sibley company exploring using bats as pest control

by Minden Press-Herald

Benson Environmental is investigating a pest control method that might seem a little unconventional, but in some places has proven to be an effective solution.

Brian Benson, general manager of the tire transport and disposal company, addressed the Webster Parish Police Jury in its committee meeting about ways to combat a growing mosquito population at the site. He says he’s researched two methods – thermal fogging, which uses two different chemicals to kill mosquitoes and the bat houses.

“We have been researching this on what would be best for us and best for you,” he said, speaking to police jury members. “We kind of came to the conclusion that general fogging and throwing chemicals into the air and hoping to hit something was not the best idea. So, we went back to our (pest) control company and asked them, ‘What have you got?’ ‘Everything in your arsenal, what have you got?’”

He went on to explain the logistics of thermal fogging. It’s similar to regular fogging, except that it’s handheld and has two chemicals that are used. One is an on-contact pesticide and the other chemicals go after the larvae, Benson says.
“The second (chemical) is a growth inhibitor,” he said. “It gets to them before they become a pest.”
He says they will begin the thermal fogging this month.

Benson Environmental takes in tires to be disposed of, and at times, they are stored on the grounds while waiting for disposal. The problem there lies in the fact that tires hold water, which becomes a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other pests. While they have pest control come in at least once per month, during the hotter, summer months, it may not be enough.

And with the amount of rain that’s fallen over the last several months, it could potentially be an even bigger problem.

Along with the thermal fogging, Benson Environmental is also looking at an unconventional pest control method as well – bat houses.

According to his research, Benson says they’ve talked to engineers about it, and has learned that bats eat about 2,000 insects per bat. Bats are nocturnal mammals that feed mainly on insects, particularly mosquitoes.

“Bats are losing their natural habitats due to deforestation,” he says. “Providing them with houses actually keeps them away from human population, which means the diseases they could communicate to humans are farther away from humans. It’s not a one stop shop, but the engineer that I spoke to just got through doing a major installation at a petro-chemical refinery in south Louisiana, because they are trying to get away from the chemicals.”

Benson says he’s also looking at the long-term effects of disbursing chemicals into the air and the ground over long periods of time. Using bat houses is an environmentally safe route to pest control, he says, and would cut down on the use of chemicals.

How does it work? Merlin D. Tuttle, of Bat Conservation International, says while bat houses prove beneficial, mosquito control is a complex problem that rarely can be solved by a single approach.

“Although no single approach to mosquito control is appropriate for all locations, encouraging natural predators should be an important element in long-term planning wherever possible,” he said. “Anything that can be done to encourage predation from aquatic insects, fish, or bats may be important in reducing mosquito numbers.”

According to veterinarians Drs. Foster and Smith, many movies demonize bats and make them out to be “blood-thirsty” creatures, which spread disease. Contrary to belief, they say, there are only three species of bats that feed on blood, and they all live in Central and South America.

“People also fear that they will be attacked if they are outdoors at night when bats are present,” the vets say. “This is a misunderstanding of bat behavior. Bats swoop down to catch flying insects, not to scare you. Don’t let bat myths play on your fears. Bats are friendly, helpful creatures. When you place a bat house in your backyard, you offer bats a safe place to live.”

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