The air war rages on

ESCANABA – A war rages on in the air above Upper Michigan. The Air Force is on red alert!

This battle, between bat and bug has been going on for centuries.

Sometimes these scrimmages go unnoticed by us humans. In the darkness of the night, the little brown bats conduct their covert plans, to devour all of the mosquitoes they can.

Most of us are not real fans of the bats. But we tend to dislike mosquitoes even more. Over the years, humans have come to understand that the bigger the bat population, the fewer the mosquitoes.

I’ll bet everyone of us can tell a story about a terrified mom or grandma, armed with a broom, screaming for help, because a creepy bat managed to get into the house or cabin.

These mysterious little mammals have long been associated with witchcraft, Halloween, rabies, vampires and making nests in human hair.

Well, I’m here to attest that never once did a bat try to nest in my hair and I and my long hair have been outside in bat-loving places for many years.

In the past decade, the bats reputation has change a lot. From being whapped to death with a tennis racket or broom, to building bat houses for the critters to roost, is how the animal’s image has changed.

Around the farm, homestead, garden, or the lakeside are places where bat house are placed to lure in the best mosquito deterrent around.

This year, we seem to have a real bumper crop of blood thirsty mosquitoes out there. Even me, a crazy old beagler and outdoors person, says the bugs are bad this year!

One reason for the great amount of mosquitoes is the great amount of water, puddles, ponds and moist places that we were left with after all of the snow and cold weather.

Another reason could be that are resident bat population has come down with a new disease, called “white nose syndrome.” This deadly bat fungus has been diagnosed in several U.P. counties. Experts fear that is disease may lead to a major bat die-off, crop damage (bats eat many bugs that are harmful to plants) and a lot more pesky mosquitoes.

Michigan is home to nine spies of bats. The “little brown bat” and the “big brown bat” are the two types most commonly seen. Bats use echolocation to find their food and they can consume up to half of their body weight in insects in one night. They can also carry rabies, so use caution.

True, no one wants the bats too close to their homes, but these night flyers are useful neighbors. I remember once years ago, a bat got down into the stovepipe at camp. It was a cool rainy June day and Dad made a fire in the stove to get the dampness out of camp.

Immediately, we heard this weird squeaking coming from the stove. So surprised, I opened the lid and saw the smokey sooty bat! On the stove poker, we carried the nearly dead critter outside.

After hanging upside down in the rain most of the afternoon, the bat began to creep up a tree. By suppertime he recuperated enough and flew away.

Bats are tough. Bats are bizarre and we need bats to battle it out with the mosquitoes – as long as they stay away from my hair!

Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong resident of north Escanaba. Her folksy columns are published weekly in Lifestyles.