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Roma, our illustrious capital, is launching a new campaign to improve living conditions in the quartieri periferici (city suburbs). We are pretty much used to hearing about these campaigns: a campaign to fight against the deterioration of the environment, a campaign to help homeless immigrants, a campaign against le lucciole (lucciole are fireflies but the word is used as a euphemism for prostitutes). However this latest campaign is not against ‘fireflies’ but the dreaded zanzare (mosquitoes), and the secret weapon being deployed in this battle is the humble pipistrello (bat) which consumes zanzare in prodigious quantities.
‘Bat-box’ is the name given to the small cassette in legno (wooden boxes) specially constructed to house bats, and 25 of them have been put into operation by Ater, the organization which manages thousands of case popolari (council houses) in the city.
“La nostra Amministrazione, mantenendo fede alle promesse fatte agli inquilini, lancia un segnale importante sulla strada del rispetto e della tutela ambientale con l’installazione, presso gli stabili di Corviale, delle Bat-box, strumento estremamente efficace e biologico di lotta alle zanzare”, (“Our administration, adhering to the promises made to our tenants, is sending out an important message about the care of, and respect for the environment with the installation of ‘Bat-boxes’, a very effective and natural instrument in the fight against mosquitoes, in the vicinity of our establishments in Corviale”) explained Luca Petrucci, president of Ater del Comune di Roma (Ater of Rome Council).
The ‘Bat-boxes’ have been installed on trees near housing managed by Ater in Corviale, a suburb of Rome, by the Consorzio nazionale servizi (Cns), which deals with environmental health and hygiene services. The initiative is linked to a project run by the Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Universitá di Firenze (The Natural History Museum of the University of Florence), and the installations in Corviale are the first of their kind in Lazio. In the future, Ater expects to be able to expand the project city wide. Meanwhile several other regions of Italy have already got similar projects underway. These include Toscana, Trentino Alto Adige, Piemonte, Emilia Romagna, Marche and Liguria. Desperate inhabitants of mosquito infested city suburbs not yet provided with ‘Bat-boxes’ can always do a bit of Fai da te (D.I.Y) and build their own bat establishment by following the advice given on the Natural History Museum website: Museo di Storia Naturale
Alternately, pre-made units are on sale in the stores of a big supermarket chain in Toscana. Designed by the Zoological department of the Museo di Storia Naturale, and based on experience acquired from the study of Italian bats, the boxes measure 35 cm wide by 60 cm high, and are only 5 cm thick. The location of the ‘Bat-box’ is very important as the bats only use them as a refuge if they are well placed and easily identifiable. An ideal location is on the wall of a house, or on a tree trunk about 4 meters from ground level and preferably near vegetation.
So just how good are these bats? Well I was amazed to learn that a single pipistrello can consume up to 2000 insects, in just one night!