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Fruit Bats grrrr

Varinia Sowden - Tuesday, August 23, 2016

How will I know if I have Flying foxes or fruit bats in my garden or orchard? 

Look for large, compressed pieces of skin and flesh on the ground under the tree.These are called spats and are about the size of a ten cent piece. Formed when flying foxes bite pieces of fruit, compress the fruit between tongue and hard palate to extract the juice, then spit out the remains .

With Pome fruits the whole fruit may be eaten and the only evidence will be missing fruit in your trees and Stones from peaches nectarines and plums on the ground.

Conversely partially eaten fruit or even whole fruit may be present on the ground as the Flying foxes or fruit bats, can knock fruit to the ground when moving around in the tree.

Broken leaders are an indication of fruit bat visitation and of course tooth marks on the fruit.

Crops most affected are low-chill stone fruit, lychee, longan and rambutan, and other crops often damaged include persimmons, bananas, papaya and mangoes. Most crops damaged by flying foxes are also susceptible to damage by birds.

 The different control methods that have been trialled are outlined below and the methods and their success rates

 

Technique

 

 

Method

 

 

Success

 

 

Netting – full canopy netting

 

The net is held permanently by a rigid structure of poles and tensioned cables over the entire orchard.

 

Success levels are very high. The structure is expensive and prone to damage in regions that experience cyclones, high wind and hail.

 

Netting – Tunnel Netting

 

A series of light frames connected by wires are erected at intervals along the row to support the net and hold it away from the tree. The nets are placed over the frame only when fruit has matured.

 

Fruit touching the net can be damaged by pests on the outside of the net. Nets need to be pegged down to avoid pests getting under the net.

 

Smell – flying foxes have a highly developed sense of smell.

 

Carbide

 

The smell of carbide was successful in deterring flying foxes in 1982 in north Queensland. However, flying foxes will become accustomed to the smell.

 

Sound

 

Replaying recorded sounds, such as bangers, clangers, poppers, bombers and sirens

 

Sound can initially be successful, however long term use is doubtful. Flying foxes become accustomed very quickly to sounds if they are not met with real danger.

 

Lights

 

Flashing strobe lights and bright light grids over orchards

 

Lights can be initially successful, however flying foxes become accustomed to the light and will feed in a fully illuminated orchard. It also has the potential to act as a beacon and guide the flying foxes to the orchard.

 

Electric wires

 

Horizontal grid of electrified wires above the trees combined with droppers hanging down the side

 

Electric wires can be moderately successful, however are now illegal in Queensland (banned in 2001).

 

Scare guns

 

Scare guns can be initially successful, however flying foxes will become accustomed if there is no danger.

 

Bags

 

Fruit protection bags placed over fruit

 

Fruit protection bags are an extremely labour intensive and costly mitigation method. Flying foxes can go under the bags.

 

Chemicals and allied substances

 

Certain chemicals have been trialled – some make the animals sick or disoriented, others give a bad taste.

 

Chemicals need to be resprayed after rainfalls, and residues can impact the flavour of the fruit. Methiocarb was used along with others.

 

Poisons

 

Various poisons are applied to fruits.

 

The use of poisons is non-target specific and illegal. It can also bring the fruit industry into disrepute.

 

Shooting

 

Shooting of early arriving flying foxes (‘scouts’) prior to entire flock coming to feed.

 

Crop losses are often still extensive with shooting, especially when there is a scarcity of native food. No longer legal in Queensland.

 

 

 

The challenge to address flying fox damage in orchards is an ongoing one. A significant amount of research both in Australia and overseas at this stage has failed to identify a deterrent method that has achieved the success rate of full canopy netting.

From the paper  - Flying fox control methods research findings Department  of Natural Resources and Environment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As major investors in the Australian horticulture industry, Rewards Group Ltd needs to ensure maximized returns on all funds invested, particularly in orchard infrastructure. Accordingly, our choice of contractors is critical to the final success of any project.

Bill Hatton - Rewards Group Ltd.

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We chose NetPro to construct our protective canopies, as we know NetPro have been around for some time, we know their work and there are plenty of examples of their work around – we like the consistency of standard. In addition, NetPro are recognized by the Finance bodies, and it is much easier to get finance for a structure.

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I think it has made all the difference to the quality of our product – it has saved us from bird attack and from hail damage." Since 2001, Robert Channon Wines have won 23 trophies, 17 gold medals, 26 silver and 55 bronze medals.

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Renato Andreatta - Granite Belt

"I think it has made all the difference to the quality of our product – it has saved us from bird attack and from hail damage." To date, Robert Channon Wines have won 23 trophies, 17 gold medals, 26 silver and 55 bronze medals since 2001."

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