They may not be everyone’s favourite creature; mainly because of their connection to vampire mythology.
But, bats may now be the latest weapon in the fight against the Zika virus, which can cause birth defects.
Miami city commissioner Kristin Rosen Gonzalez has mooted the idea of using bats to kill the mosquitoes which are known to spread the virus.
She said while some people weren’t taking her suggestion seriously, bats are capable of eating up to 3,000 mosquitoes in one day and could be used to reduce the bug population in the city.
She is suggesting that bat houses are installed around Miami to encourage bats to take up residence and eat the mosquitoes which could be carrying the Zika virus.
The first outbreak of locally transmitted Zika virus was first reported three months ago.
So far, officials have tried a number of measures including the use of larvacide, which is targeted at the larval stage of mosquitos, insecticide and planned parenthood canvassers going door-to-door to try to educate those thinking about pregnancy about the risk of Zika. The virus is known to lead to head deformities in babies.
Ms Gonzalez is calling for a pilot programme to be established to place bat houses around the city “to control the city’s mosquito population due to the continued presence of mosquitos carrying the zika virus.”
The move is one which would be popular with environmentalists who have so far not been happy about the use of chemicals to control mosquitos.
However, bats have been used, unsuccessfully in other projects to try to control mosquitos. The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) says bats have not been very effective in reducing mosquito populations because they will feed on whatever food source is easiest to catch.
The AMCA says on its website: “There is no question that bats eat mosquitoes, but to utilise them as the sole measure of control would be folly indeed, particularly considering the capacity of both mosquitoes and bats to transmit diseases.”
Bats have, however, been known to control mosquito populations where there is no other easy food source, so they may yet turn out to be the heroes in the battle against the spread of the Zika virus.
Zika is prevalent in the Americas and the Pacific and has also spread to other parts of South and North America. The World Health Organisation (WHO) expects Zika to have spread throughout the vast majority of the Americas by the end of this year.