Using Bats For Insect Control

Wouldn’t it be great if you could significantly reduce the codling moth population on your farm without even lifting a finger? New research suggests it could be feasible simply by introducing bats into your integrated pest management (IPM) program.

Thanks to a three-year grant, Steve Tennes of Country Mills Farms, in collaboration with Stretch Island Fruit Company, is studying the integration of bats into the pest management program at his Charlotte, MI-based orchard. Seven farms total throughout southern Michigan are participating. Each farm received four bat houses provided by the Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC).

Researchers from Michigan State University are leading the entomology portion of the study, monitoring codling moth flight and damage in relationship to bat activity, and a graduate student from Eastern Michigan University is monitoring the bat activity through a passive listening device.

Bat Houses

According to the Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC), one bat can eat 600 to 1,000 insects in an hour.

To help attract bats, OBC offers a range of bat houses designed based on years of research.

For more information, or to purchase a bat house, go to www.batconservation.org.

For plans to build your own bat house, go to http://batconservation.org/content/
buildyourown.htm
.

According to Tennes, the bat monitoring equipment listens for specific bat echo locations (the sound bats use to communicate and navigate). “From that, this equipment can tell exactly which species of bat is flying, when they’re flying, and the amount of relative bat activity at the different farms,” he says. “We’re going to correlate that to the amount of codling moth activity and damage.”

The next step, which they’re working on now, involves something called bat misting. Essentially, this means temporarily catching the bats and collecting and analyzing their guano (excrement). The bat species are identified, and the guano is evaluated for percentage of codling moth and oriental fruit moth DNA. This provides details on the number of codling moths eaten by each different bat species.

The Bat Signal

So, what can growers do to attract bats? There’s not a lot, Tennes says, other than installing bat houses. “The biggest thing is not to do certain things, and that is disturb where they’re living,” he notes. “Keep human activity to a minimum.”

There is a science to creating the bat houses, too. If you make the opening a quarter of an inch too big, for example, owls rather than bats might inhabit it — a quarter of an inch too small and the bats might not fit, Tennes says.

He notes that bats are migratory, too, which means in order for them to come back, it’s paramount you provide and maintain suitable housing. “It takes patience,” says Tennes. “Bats have one litter a year, so their reproductive rate is much slower than that of codling moth, so it takes time to build up bat populations.”

A Piece Of The Puzzle

While bats can be an excellent addition to an IPM program, Tennes is quick to note they’re not a stand-alone solution. But, with more and more synthetic insect controls being phased out, and with adult codling moths developing resistance, bats are just one more control mechanism to add to the arsenal. “This would be one tool that would go into an IPM or an organic system,” he says. “What we’re trying to do is quantify how much of an effect they can have and also give growers tools to make good decisions on how to help increase bat activity.”

Tennes adds that a crucial part of any IPM program is targeting the different stages of pests. The bats have the potential to work hand-in-hand with mating disruption, for example, to cover multiple stages of the pest’s lifecycle.

This is the first year of the study, so conclusive results likely won’t be available until 2011, but an interim report will be available by this winter, Tennes says.

Overall, he’s optimistic about the study’s outcome. “The science is there,” he says. “I think long term, this has got real promise. It’s just going to take a lot of time and patience.”

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories

IrrigationCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Growers
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More
EquipmentEnter To Win A Kubota At The Washington State Horticultural Association Annual Meeting
October 29, 2014
Attendees have a chance to take home a new utility vehicle courtesy of Wilbur-Ellis and Western Fruit Grower. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
The funds will go toward helping growers implement conservation practices to improve honey bee health. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More

The Latest

IrrigationCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Grower…
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More
EquipmentEnter To Win A Kubota At The Washington State Horticult…
October 29, 2014
Attendees have a chance to take home a new utility vehicle courtesy of Wilbur-Ellis and Western Fruit Grower. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
The funds will go toward helping growers implement conservation practices to improve honey bee health. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More
PotatoesNew CEO At Black Gold Farms, A Top 100 Grower
October 28, 2014
Eric Halverson takes the reins at the potato operation, while his father Gregg will remain president of the farm’s board of directors. Read More
FruitsValent U.S.A., MGK Enter Into Marketing Agreement
October 28, 2014
Valent U.S.A. to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products beginning in April 2015. Read More
VegetablesMultistate Land-Grant University Research Project Contr…
October 28, 2014
The project began in the 1970s as a Regional Initiative and has since expanded Internationally. Read More
FruitsMichigan State Offers Online Database Of Tree Fruit Dis…
October 28, 2014
Search engine helps growers identify several issues in the orchard. Read More
Stone FruitStudy Examines How To Keep Sweet Cherries Fresh
October 28, 2014
Canadian researcher says cooling of sweet cherries is key to delivering a quality product. Read More
Protected AgricultureLED Lighting Symposium To Be Held At University Of Ariz…
October 27, 2014
Event to focus on LED lighting technologies for specialty crop production. Read More
Cucurbits11 Cool Cucurbits For Florida’s Climate
October 27, 2014
Leading vegetable seed companies highlight high-performance selections for growers in the Sunshine State. Read More
CitrusModern Agriculture Is A True Centerpiece Of Thanksgivin…
October 27, 2014
FFAA's Mary Hartney says take time during this holiday season to give thanks where thanks is due. Read More