The night creatures of Maplewood Farm

By District Staff on Wednesday, Feb 14, 2024

Some of Maplewood Farm’s residents only come out after dusk.

Selina Cowman, manager of the farm, has spotted many of these nocturnal creatures flying out for a late-night insect snack.

That’s because twice a month during the spring and summer, Cowman counts the number of bats leaving their roosts at the farm.

She collects the data for the BC Annual Bat Count, which monitors bat populations in the province, many of which are at risk.

Of all her jobs as manager at the farm, this task is one of the more unusual ones, but it’s also gratifying.

“Citizen science plays a vital role in advancing scientific knowledge while promoting public engagement and addressing pressing environmental challenges,” she says, noting that the annual BC Bat Count relies on volunteers from across B.C. to gather the data.

According to BC Bat, which analyzed the Maplewood Farm roosts, the farm’s night-flying residents are the reasonably-small tan or brown-coloured Myotis yumanensis found throughout western North America.

A close up of two rectangular-shaped wooden bat boxes attached to the upper portion of a wood-paneled utility building.

A pair of bat houses at Maplewood Farm.

A growing bat population 

Maplewood Farm has two donated bat boxes for its growing bat population, but they are filling up, so they are adding two more this month.

In 2023, many of Maplewood Farm’s bats “pupped” – had babies – and Cowman counted a total of 160. The year before, the farm’s first year participating in the count, they spotted 130 by the end of the season.

“So, we are seeing more bats return to us to have their babies. Bats are very sensitive to changes in environmental conditions, so we feel very special to have a resident colony return to us,” she says.

Cowman notes that fostering a healthy bat population in urban areas provides valuable ecosystem benefits to the farm and the surrounding environment.

“The bats are voracious insect eaters and consume large quantities of pests such as moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. Bats also consume berries and disperse the seeds in their droppings. By controlling insect populations and aiding in seed dispersal, bats contribute to the overall health of our urban farm ecosystem,” she says.

Learn more about Maplewood Farm

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