Oakton athletics installs homes for beneficial species

(Nov. 16, 2016) The Oakton  Community College athletics department has installed four bat boxes and two owl houses around the Des Plaines campus,1600 E. Golf Road, as a way to mitigate the mosquito problem and reduce burrowing mammals while using less pesticide. 

Each box will become the home of 50 to 75 little brown bats. Little brown bats eat moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies, among others. Since many of their preferred meals are insects with an aquatic life stage, such as mosquitoes, they prefer to roost near bodies of water such as the nearby Des Plaines River. These insectivores are beneficial because each can eat as many as 1,000 mosquitoes per hour.

The Chicago Wilderness Alliance has listed the little brown bat among its 12 priority species. In the last decade, a rapidly spreading fungal disease, white-nose syndrome, has caused a massive die-off and devastated up to 90 percent of bat colonies.

The department also installed two owl houses to encourage nesting pairs of eastern screech owls to take up residence in the adjacent woods. Oakton recently adopted the owl as its athletic mascot. What’s more, owls eat the moles, ground squirrels and voles that burrow and create ankle-twisting holes in grassy areas such as athletic fields.

“With a little help from nature, we can improve our practice fields, and we hope that the owl ‘hoots’ coming from the woods will also inspire our athletes,” said Athletics Director Bruce Oates.