Knowing the local bat population had been terrorized by the invasive fungal disease white-nose syndrome, Girl Scouts Grace Koehler and Arwen King designed their Silver Award “Bat Girls” project to raise the bat population.
Members of Hadley Troop 11267, the girls educated the community on the importance of bats and built and hung more than 15 bat boxes.
“We chose a project on bats because we felt like there was a strong stigma that bats, big or small, were all vicious creatures that had rabies and sucked blood,” said Arwen, a 14-year-old home-schooled student from Amherst. “This is not true, as most bats eat pesky mosquitoes and moths as well as fruits from trees.”
Using donated wood, they created the bat houses using a design they found during their research on line and in libraries. The design was “simple, yet very effective,” Arwen said. “We had never done carpentry before with that much material, so we ended up having to learning some new skills that we can use later on in life.”
In addition to building and distributing the bat houses, the girls made posters and gave presentations about the importance of bats.
“Bats are important because they eat enormous amounts of mosquitoes that carry diseases, and without bats there would be more mosquitoes than there is right now,” said Grace, 15, a freshman at Hopkins Academy in Hadley.
White-nose syndrome is a disease that affects hibernating bats and is caused by a fungus. It has killed millions of bats in North America.
Bat houses help bats that are in need of a safe place to live while protecting areas from night-flying insects.
Grace said she is proud to have earned the Girl Scout Silver Award and “felt accomplished after all the hard work and many hours to put it all together.”
Arwen said the project is the most extensive one she and Grace have done, and the lessons they learned about the environment, about working with professionals in the community and about themselves will help them grow as people. “We now are thoroughly educated in our surrounding environment, which will make us more keen to aiding wildlife and our world in the future,” she said.
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