Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

11 Nissan 5765 - April 20, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Home and Family

Observations: Natural Insecticides
by Y. Barak

How are bats transformed into mobile insect suppression machines to replace the chemical pesticides that pose a danger to water sources, wild animals and the public health in general?

A program developed at the Society for the Protection of Nature's Mammalians Center was presented. According to the program the bat can serve as a natural alternative to pesticides, and various steps can be taken to help preserve species that are currently in danger of extinction, such as providing food and preparing lodging sites.

There are 30 different species of bat in Israel, representing more than one-third of all mammal species. The most common one is the fruit bat, which subsists primarily on fruit and is most commonly found in urban areas. Other types of bats subsist on microbes, bugs, mosquitoes and moths.

Not long ago, fruit bats were suspected of causing crop damage and were poisoned to death, diminishing their numbers significantly. Others also died of secondary poisoning after feeding off of various insects that had been poisoned by pesticides. But since the 1980s there has been an attitude change toward bats, and the possibility of using them as "natural pesticide" is now being examined.

According to the plan, bats and bugs would be specially brought together into one area so that the bats would eat the insects. The planners are now investigating how to bring both of them under the same roof. The bats would be lured using sophisticated sleeping compartments that would allow them to sleep by day, while the insects would be lured using focused light sources installed near these sleeping compartments. Thus a community consisting of two species living side by side would be formed; the bats would then eradicate their neighbors and go to sleep on a full stomach without having to search high and low for their dinner. If this fascinating experiment succeeds, similar sites would be set up to attract bats, and eventually would lead to reductions in the use of chemical pesticides.

An device is used to record the sounds made by bats and help with the development of the new program. The bat produces various pitches too high for the human ear to detect. The new device translates these sounds into pitches that fall within the range of human hearing, allowing researchers to learn how to identify the sounds characteristic of each of the species, and to categorize the 30 different species according to local population distribution. So far 20 types of sounds belonging to various bat species have been identified.


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