Like A Bat Outta Heaven

Mosquito season has been a bit out of whack in Tel Aviv for the past few years. Instead of dying down, as they normally should, swarms of them are lingering on in bedrooms and come nightfall are attacking with a vengeance. Some locals report using high-speed fans or nets at night to keep the bloodsuckers at bay – others resort to nasty chemical sprays and plug-ins.

Using integrated pest management and more specifically biological control, a suburb of Tel Aviv has enlisted an insectivorous bat population to do the dirty work of eating unwanted mosquitoes. In partnership with Tel Aviv University, the Ministry of the Environment and the city of Ramat Gan, the trio plan to create insectivorous bat habitat in residential areas to increase the number of predators who will chomp on the mosquitoes – each bat can eat up to 600 a night! Say goodbye to insecticides...Mosquitoes have traditionally been of special concern in Israel and worldwide because they transmit pathogens to us humans. Mosquitoes can carry the malaria pathogen, which was prevalent in Israel until the 1950s, and in recent years, they have been associated with the transmission of West Nile virus.

If you’ve ever visited Tel Aviv, you can’t help but notice the fruit bats that already thrive there: The clicks from their echolocation are part of the city’s buzz. Most are fruit bats: Insectivorous bats don’t find suitable habitat in the city because they don’t do well in the urban sprawl.

This July, 50 nesting boxes were placed in Ramat Gan: 17 on eucalyptus trees in the Ramat Gan National Park and 33 in a local zoo. The locations were chosen following a preliminary survey by researchers. Will the plan work?

Biological control provides a natural way of augmenting the negative effects of explosive pest populations – usually brought about through human interference. And Tel Aviv University –through its mad (in a good way) professor Dr. Yossi Leshem, has long been a pioneer and trendsetter in this field; Prof. Leshem has developed owl and kestrel programs around Israel and the near Middle East for reducing rodent populations.

This new effort with bats is scheduled to continue for several years during which time, the population of the nesting boxes by insectivorous bats will be examined. Plans call for students and members of the public to visit the area to learn about the project and about the importance of biological control in general. Treehugger related: Biological control in wineries & Tiger Droppings help control ferals. ::Ministry website

Tags: Bats | Israel | Tel Aviv