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Letters To The Editor

Dear Editor,

You’ll probably get lots of responses to encouraging purple martin houses. You do NOT want them if you keep bees, as they will eat the bees during the day. Bat houses are better, in that, bats are out at night when bees are sleeping.

Thanks!

C-

Dear C-,

To be honest, purple martins are everywhere where I live, and yet I have not seen an appreciable decline in my bee hive population. We have a purple martin condo in our front yard and six beehives in the back. I think the trick is to have enough bees that any predatory animal won’t decimate your hive numbers.

I personally have no experience with bat houses. I’d love to hear from some of our readers who have. I just know that bats like to take up residence in any attic that is not screened off in our area, and their droppings create a lot more damage and health issues for home owners here. If you folks have successfully kept bat houses without them invading your personal home, we’d love to hear from you!

The Editor

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Dear Editor,

I just wanted to let you know about an incorrect bit of advice concerning purple martins. I read it in your Letters to the Editor. If I could contact the actual person I would. Since I can’t maybe you can, or at least maybe print a correction. The letter stated that, “Purple Martins will eat copious amounts of mosquitoesPlease read the truth about this myth at https://purplemartin.org/main/mgt.html

“Martins, like all swallows, are aerial insectivores. They eat only flying insects, which they catch in flight. Their diet is diverse, including dragonflies, damselflies, flies, midges, mayflies, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, Japanese beetles, June bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, bees, wasps, flying ants, and ballooning spiders. Martins are not, however, prodigious consumers of mosquitoes as is so often claimed by companies that manufacture martin housing. An intensive 7-year diet study conducted at PMCA headquarters in Edinboro, PA, failed to find a single mosquito among the 500 diet samples collected from parent martins bringing beakfuls of insects to their young. The samples were collected from martins during all hours of the day, all season long, and in numerous habitats, including mosquito-infested ones. Purple Martins and freshwater mosquitoes rarely ever cross paths. Martins are daytime feeders, and feed high in the sky; mosquitoes, on the other hand, stay low in damp places during daylight hours, or only come out at night. Since Purple Martins feed only on flying insects, they are extremely vulnerable to starvation during extended periods of cool and/or rainy weather.”

I enjoy your newsletter very much and have learned a lot,

H-

Dear H-

Well, after doing a little research it seems that studies do show that mosquitos never comprise more than 3% of the purple martin diet, simply because the martins feed at 110-200 feet, far above the ground and away from low-flying insects. That just goes to show how a myth can become taken for established fact if it is repeated often enough. Thank you for taking the time to write in and correct the record on this! I guess we better start learning about bat houses!

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