Here’s the latest from BEEPS – Peachland’s Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society
Here’s a press release BEEPS just sent my way. It’s from the BC Community Bat program. They want us all to be on the lookout for sick or dead bats around here:
The province’s bats are threatened by disease and researchers are asking the public for help.
White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease responsible for the death of millions of bats in eastern North America, is spreading to the West Coast. The disease has been confirmed in bats just 100 kilometres south of the USA/B.C. border.
“The fungus attacks bats while they are hibernating and, much like mold on bread, spreads over a bats wings and face. This gives the appearance of a white nose,” says Ella Braden, Okanagan coordinator with the B.C. Community Bat Program. “Bats often wake up from their hibernation to clean the fungus off their skin.”
Once awake, bats come out in search of water and insects to eat, if any are active. Unfortunately, the fungus also makes bats weak, and they often perish.
Detection of WNS in B.C. is challenging because bats in B.C. hibernate alone or in small groups across the province.
“To monitor the spread of the disease, we need more eyes on the ground. Outdoor enthusiasts and home-owners with roosts on their property may be the first to find evidence of trouble.” Braden said.
“We are encouraging the public to report dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity to the B.C. Community Bat Program,” Braden said.
As a result of ongoing research, biologists are finding that healthy bats are also somewhat active in winter, and that a few bats even choose to hibernate in woodpiles or under house trim. These sleeping bats should be left alone — keep your distance, snap a photo and report it to the B.C. Community Bat Program. If you must move a bat, visit www.bcbats.ca for advice and never touch a bat with your bare hands.
If you see a dead bats or any sightings of winter bat activity, please report it to the B.C. Community Bat Program online at bcbats.ca, via email at Okanagan@bcbats.ca or by calling 1-855-922-2287 ext. 13.
Bat carcasses will be tested for WNS.
Residents are reminded to never touch a dead bat with your bare hands.
BEEPS’ Darlene Hartford recently presented the group’s annual report to District councillors. Here are some highlights:
- The Bats Out of the Darkness exhibit saw 1,800 visitors, with more than 1,000 being during the summer. They did tie-dye lessons, worked on recipes that help bats, and other bat-themed crafts all summer, including at Todd’s RV and Cousins’ field.
- BEEPS also received taxidermy specimens to use for their programming – and that was thanks to some new regional partnerships.
- Bat counts are still popular! These Friday-night counts also provide valuable statistics to Environment Canada, which has info on the health and viability of our Peachland colony.
- BEEPS has also created some cool bat-friendly gardens that attract pollinators. They’ve also partnered with Hainle Winery, which has a new trail where they used bat guano on some vines.
- BEEPS is a big part of the community – you’ll find them at the Farmers Markets and other community events. They also thanked the District of Peachland and the local fire department for their support.
- And, the BEEPS bat house registry now has 27 entries! Twenty of those houses are here in Peachland, and 40% have been used so far by bats.
- Installing bat-friendly lighting is a future priority. Urbanization exposes bat to higher levels of light pollution and coloured LEDS have been found to be beneficial. It keeps insects where bats forage and it’s more energy efficient in the long run, too. It is costly to start with, though. One obstacle is that BC Hydro doesn’t install these lights because they won’t install coloured LEDs for safety reasons. BEEPs would like to continue to research this through hopefully, getting some grants.
Thanks to the Peachland Fire Department, the annual end of season checkup of the Peachland Historic School attic (AKA our Peachland bats’ habitat) took place November 29! Monitoring electronics were inspected and the information was dowloaded, deceased bats were collected for further examination, and the guano was gathered. What’s guano? Bat poop! Apparently, it’s great for gardening. According to the latest BEEPs newsletter, around this time of year, BEEPS can determine the general health of the colony, and that of individual bats. They’re eager to know whether that heat wave we had this summer may have played a role in the number of dead bats they found this fall.
And did you know, BEEPS has a brand-new website? It’s www.beepspeachland.com
BEEPS is kicked off Bat Week on Saturday, October 23 and 24 at the Little Schoolhouse. They provided mini pumpkins and art supplies – and these works of art were featured in one of the displays at the Haunted Pier – local groups decorated sections of the Peachland pier, just in time for Halloween. Leading up to that was Bat Week, October 24 – 31!
What else is new? BEEPS has decided to postpone their Fiesta-themed fundraiser to the spring. We’ll keep you posted on the plans, should be fun!
The BEEPS summer students were busy this year! Kaylene Eytcheson was one of them, and she sent along a reminder that Bat Kids in the Kitchen is every Tuesday and Thursday at the community centre! Kids will be creating some fun recipes using foods pollinated by bats in other parts of the world. Here’s a photo of Daxton (left) and Jasmine, two other BEEPS summer students, at work in the kitchen! The fun happens between 10 and 11 am, and again between 1:30 and 2:30 pm, every Tuesday and Thursday til the end of summer. This is all part of the new Bats: Out of the Darkness Exhibit! (more on that below)
On July 8, the BEEPS team hosted a VIP evening for the new Bats: Our of the Darkness Exhibit, which runs at the community centre’s banquet room until the end of August. BEEPS president Heidi Slyngbom welcomed everyone, Syilx knowledge keepers opened the evening, and afterwards everyone got to mingle, enjoy a glass of wine from Hainle Winery, and check out the exhibit. Even if you’re a longtime Peachlander and think you know enough about bats, you’ll be surprised! The hard work, research and personality put into this exhibit is worth checking out!
Bats: Out of the Darkness exhibit, a project two years in the making, is now set up at the community centre every day, from 10-6 throughout July and August.
Syilx knowledge keeper Pamela Barnes cut the opening ribbon on July 3. Here’s what she had to say:
“We see ourselves as borrowing these lands from the future, from future generations of not just humans, but of all future generations of life. And just to illustrate how big a difference that is, if I own this necklace, I can sell it, I can trade it, I can give it away. It’s mine. I can do what I want. When I take really good care of it, or not, because it’s mine, I can do what I want.
But if I borrow this, everything about that relationship changes. I can’t sell it. I can’t give it away. I can’t trade it. It’s not mine to do that with. There’s an expectation that I take the very best care that I possibly can, and then when I leave it, or return it, then it’s at least in the same condition that I found it, and if at all possible, better. And not better by my definition of better, but better by the definition of the future generations that inherit it.
So it’s with that understanding of our sacred relationship to these lands that’s much more than a responsibility and stewardship and obligation. It’s with that understanding that we first welcome others to the traditional unceded territory of the Syilx people. And it’s with that understanding that today, I welcome you to the traditional, unceded and currently occupied territory of the Syilx people. With the gentle but urgent reminder that none of us, including ourselves as Syilx people, are doing a very great job of taking care of this, the land, the water, and all of it for all of our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and again, not just human but all future generations living.”
Some words from organizers, in advance of the opening event!:
We are super excited to host the Bats Out of the Darkness exhibit this summer. The main exhibit; 4 large double-sided wall panels, filled with anecdotes, bat facts, boasts many photos that include BEEPS activities. You may see a photo of yourself at a Bat Count or on the Bat Trail! Look for displays on Okanagan conservation practices, habitat, predators, and many unique, interactive activities, for added fun! Friends and families can participate in a variety of bat activities and collect stamps for the Community Bat Passport. Participating in Friday night Bat Counts at Peachland Historic School or walking the Bat House Trail or the new BEEPS in the Vineyard Trail, will earn stamps to fill your passport and win prizes. Children can tie-dye T-shirts or take part in Chiroptera Kids in the Kitchen cooking classes using foods that are available thanks to pollinator bats from around the world. Visit the Bat Friendly Garden at the Little Schoolhouse, and Hainle Estate Winery, where you can learn how to attract these hungry insectivores to your property. Find out how you can help bring bats out of the darkness and into our consciousness, by visiting the Summer Exhibit of Bats Out of the Darkness at the Peachland Community Centre in July and August, and again at the Fall Exhibit at The Little Schoolhouse on Brandon Lane and Hainle Estate Winery during September and October. Grand opening is July 3!
MARK YOUR CALENDARS FOR EARLY SUMMER EVENTS:
Every Sunday 10AM-2PM: Peachland Farmers Market, North Entrance
- BEEPS Bat Info Booth
Every Friday July and August, Twilight at the Peachland Historic School: BEEPS Bat Counts
- Click this link for sunset times as times will vary slightly each day
- Assemble out front at twilight for sign in with phones to download counting app & chair; Count begins at dusk – about 20 minutes after twilight
- Crafts-to-go for kids
- Email us to check time and pre-register email@example.com
Every Day July & August: Peachland Community Centre: BATS OUT OF THE DARKNESS!! Watch for more fun stuff updates at www.beepspeachland.com
Hungry bats are expert hunters, and a single bat can eat its own weight in insects every night. Why not invite them to live on your property to help get rid of pesky, biting bugs, without using toxic chemicals?
On Father’s Day, BEEPs hosted a fun activity – building your own bat house!
Also, did you know the first bat count of the season was June 11? A total of 929 were accounted for.
BEEPS is looking for people who want to volunteer, both in general roles, and maybe on their executive, too. If you’re interested in the environment, tourism, marketing, budgeting, education, and yes, bats – you might be a good fit! The time commitment is around 20 hours a month and includes monthly meetings. If you want more info, feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org
April 17 was Bat Appreciation Day, and that was the plan for students registered in the Thompson Okanagan Tourism Association skills training program. They were joined by local bat enthusiasts as they walked Peachland’s Bat House Interpretive Trail and visited the first bats of the season, through the live video feed.
It was a bright, sunny day!
Email email@example.com or phone (250) 767-2143 for more info on the bats!
Have you seen a bat yet? As you’ll read below, the first one of the season has been officially spotted – but BEEPS wants to catch you in the act of finding one! They’re hosting a photo contest starting April 17 and you could win a new handmade, crochet bat friend! All you need to do is step outside at dusk and share your experience looking for – or if you’re lucky, spotting a bat! Make sure you tag BEEPS on Facebook or Instagram so they can see! A draw for the bat will take place May 1.
The first bat siting of the year has been reported in Peachland – and how perfect that it was the granddaughter of Darlene Hartford, who is well known for her work with BEEPS! Five year-old Anna Winkler saw “one or two” bats while in the hot tub with her family one night in late March. They had put up a bat house three years ago, but have yet to find one inside. Maybe this year is the lucky one!
“Her brother and sisters think it might have been the same bat flying by twice! But the whole family was excited to see at least one bat in their yard,” Darlene says.
Well done, Anna!
Do you geocache? It’s a fun springtime activity and BEEPS wants you to give it a try! Susan Van Noortwyk (her cache name is witch’nlion, by the way), is working with the bat group to add eight more geocaches to the 100 or so that are already around Peachland. They’ve made up a ‘Beach Ave Bat Corridor Walk’, which happens to be along the same path Peachland bats use during their nightly foraging.
Here’s some more about this, in the words of BEEPS!
In 2020, Susan Van Noortwyk worked on two Adventure Labs with BEEPS. These caches are a new concept supported by geocaching.com and can be found on a separate Adventure Lab app. The Labs will provide clues, directing to a variety of locations within the Peachland area, but require no physical logging, uncovering or exchange of items. All comments to date have been five out of five by participants. Look for Peachland Bat Trail Adventure and Peachland History Adventure on the Adventure Lab app.
For those who are new to the game of geocaching, getting started takes only three easy steps. First, sign up at geocaching.com for the free app. Second, create a geocaching name. Third, have either a designated GPS device, like a Garmin, or a Smart Phone, for downloading coordinates.
Understanding the lingo is important for the new geocacher. The cache is the hidden container holding the treasure and the swag are the items inside the container. A logbook is a swag item and is included in each cache. Remember to take a pen for registering your name in the logbook. Consider taking small items also for exchange in each cache. Only one item is to be exchanged and the cache is to be returned as it was found, respecting the environment and public property.
The arrival of Peachland’s bats from hibernation is expected in March or early April. To report early bat sightings of the returning mammals, contact BEEPS at firstname.lastname@example.org and become part of the extensive data base submitted to Environment Canada.
Tim Stubbert (owner of Peachland’s Ace Hardware) and local entertainer / innkeeper Keith (Papa) Thom had some fun while making sure a new sign is perfectly hung at the Peachland Visitor Centre recently. Thanks to Darlene Hartford and the BEEPS team for sharing these pics!
If Peachland had a mascot, would it be a bat?
Those winged insect-eaters – who make their summer home in Peachland’s historic school house attic, have become quite popular over the past few years, thanks to BEEPS – the Bat Education and Ecological Protection Society.
Since forming in 2015, the group has accomplished a lot: Peachland is one of only three communities in BC who are officially designated as being bat friendly; Last year, we hosted our first-ever conference of bat experts and enthusiasts, and in 2021, an exhibit from the Kelowna Museum is expected to bring more attention to why preserving the bat population is so important.
“What we’re doing is a lot of awareness of who we are and what we represent,” says Heidi Slyngbom. We met outside just as the sun was setting on a Friday afternoon in December (and laughing, because it was only 4 p.m. and yes, it’s getting dark then!)
“Basically, it’s all about the bats – dispelling the myths, and providing education about bats and the value that they have within Peachland,” Slyngbom says, adding that all their fundraising and grant money goes right back to programming and maintaining their equipment in the attic, which allows visitors to see what’s going on inside the roost.
There’s an estimated 2,000 bats who live in the historic schoolhouse attic (explains why we don’t have many mosquitoes all summer!) And when the bats leave in winter, the local fire department cleans out their droppings, which makes for an excellent garden fertilizer.
Slyngbom says BEEPS, like any other group in Peachland, is pivoting to these times, but that’s hard to do without the money that comes from doing events – namely the annual Rubber Ducky Race, which was cancelled in April, and will likely not happen in 2021 either.
“We’re not taking a chance with all the expense and the man hours and labour involved,” she says. Plus, other groups, such as the Peachland Sportsmen’s Association (the guys who are in hip waders catching those errant duckies), have their own challenges and she doesn’t want to take their time away.
Heidi and I also spoke about the upcoming virtual gala that was successfully planned by Peachland’s Economic Recovery Task Force on Dec 4, 2020. BEEPS was one of the four locals groups who benefitted from the event proceeds (a little over $12,400!), which will go into ensuring these groups can continue on with what they give back to the community.
“The undertaking has been enormous,” said Slyngbom of the gala-related planning (she was on a couple of committees.)
“So many organization have been hurt this year. And so the gala is all about coming together. It’s about the sharing of expertise, thoughts, ideas, challenges and making this the best Christmas gala we can do under these challenging times.”
BEEPS’ summer students were busy this year! From the left is Kaylene Eytcheson, Michael Shearwood, Jackson MacPherson and Natalie Rehberg. BEEPs president Heidi Slyngbom, and Lynne Herrin, Janet Hornseth and Cheryl Evans from the visitor centre / art gallery also joined in on a nature walk earlier this year.
What did the students work on? The Bat House Interpretive Trail – a 1km loop along Trepanier Creek that connects with other walking trails in the woods – is expected to be popular. These students are happy to share what they know about our local bat population – information on bat shelter, food and life cycle are displayed along the trail, and they’ll also be reminding people about social distancing when necessary. The Interpretive Trail is also a pleasant self guided walk for all ages, abilities and dogs. To make a guided tour reservation or to pick up a trail map, head over to the visitor centre at the Peachland historic school. They’re now open, but check their Facebook page, call (250) 767-2455 or email email@example.com to double check!
And here’s some general info about BEEPS!
Did you know Peachland is one of only three official bat-friendly communities in BC? It’s because of the work of BEEPS! Founded in 2015, BEEPS has the good fortune of being the caretakers and advocates for the little brown bats which have roosted for decades in the attic of Peachland’s historic yellow schoolhouse. Estimated to be around 2,000 strong, our town’s bat population is a maternity colony, comprised mostly of females and their pups. Through their educational programs BEEPS has become a provincial leader in managing and spreading the word about bat health, preservation, and maintaining their habitat. BEEPS’ Bat House interpretive trail has become an interesting way to enjoy a walk, with information displays about bats and their importance to our ecosystem. The group’s bat counts have also become a unique summer tradition. Visitors gather at the schoolhouse just before dusk. When the bats leave their attic roost to feed on the insects that hover over Okanagan Lake, the totals are counted and recorded as a way to keep track of the population.
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