Don’t be concerned if the skies over Camana Bay at dusk are filled with bats this year; it’s all by design.
To help curb mosquito populations in this age of Zika, Camana Bay plans to build 20 more specially designed houses to entice local bats – the velvety free-tailed bat specifically – to live in and around the development. The houses, which are generally between four and five cubic feet in volume, can host more than 400 bats.
Nick Ebanks of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands, which provides the bat houses, says the only access is through a 3/4-inch opening on the underside of the house. There’s also a 1/4-inch ventilation slit on the side of the house.
“This is to prevent entry of bees and wasps and also to not allow the house to be raided by predatory birds,” he says.
“This is probably one of the most effective and environmentally friendly methods of mosquito control.” – Chip Ogilvie
The bat houses are mounted atop 30-foot-tall poles in an open area with at least a 20-foot clearance around the pole and no foliage blocking the access to the bat house.
“The mounting height and the lack of obstructions in the surrounding area of the bat house allows the bats to drop out from the bat house with no obstacles in the way,” says Ebanks. “Bats cannot fly from the ground like birds do, so they require adequate drop distance to get enough speed to start flying.”
Five new bat houses, including two near the sports facility behind Cayman International School, were erected late last year. They joined four already up on the Festival Green and the one on the land north of Solaris Avenue.
Chip Ogilvie, Dart Real Estate’s Director, Property Operations, said five more bat houses will go up in each quarter of 2017 on the undeveloped lands north, south and east of the developed lands in Camana Bay.
Bats are natural predators of mosquitoes and other flying insects like moths. They can eat their weight in insects every night.
“Some varieties of bats can eat up to 1,000 insects per hour, so a colony of 300 bats could theoretically eat 300,000 bugs per hour,” Ogilvie said. “This is probably one of the most effective and environmentally friendly methods of mosquito control. Given that some of today’s mosquitoes can carry and transmit diseases, it is important to do whatever we can to curb their populations.”