Bats are often misunderstood creatures of the night. They are so far from the rabid flying vermin that many people sadly stereotype them as. Sadly old wives tales and myths have shaped the way much of society perceives bats and it makes it all the harder for conservationists to explain the opposite truths. Without bats, the way we as humans live in an environment will change and not for the better.
Bats which lie in the order Chiroptera have evolved many amazing, advanced methods of their biology to adapt to a world we seldom appreciate. They can sustain true flight, no easy task for a mammal. Its “wings” are made up of cutaneous membrane. The bones connecting the sections of each wing are actually the bats fingers. Unlike a gliding bird, a bat must continue to flap to sustain flight. Navigation is another specialty of these aerial acrobats. First of all bats are not blind. Many species can see far better than we can. What sets bats apart is their perfection of echolocation. Think sonar from a submarine military movie only far more advanced. Bats send out vocal clicks of sound that bounce off objects and echo back to the bat. They can detect objects as fine as human hair. Once a bat hones in on a prey item it increases the number of clicks, hundreds a second, until it closes in and grasps it.
Bats are incredibly valuable to people. A single small Myotis bat can consume 1000 insects an hour and continue to feed all night. Multiply this by colonies and populations and it equals out to millions of pounds of insects annually. The free tailed bats of Bracken cave in Texas consume 200 tons per night. Those are insects that farmers and agriculturists don’t have to spend billions of dollars to eradicate with chemicals. The corn earworm moth, a bat delicacy, attacks many of our consumable crops directly including corn, watermelon, and squash. In Texas, bats save farmers close to 2 million dollars a year by eradicating these moths. Away from the farms and fields bats also control pests in forests and our parks. Without bats our backyards will vastly increase with mosquitoes and more people will be forced to spray chemicals, rub their skin with Deet, or remain inside altogether. Bats also aid in pollination of many plant species. Fruit bats which drink flower and fruit nectars brush against pollen of one plant and carry it away to contact with another plant. Bananas, mangos, guavas, and more are aided by bat pollination. An excellent bat pollination brochure, by a wonderfully informative bat website: batcon.org, can be found here www.batcon.org/pdfs/stories/Po…
In North America bats have recently begun a losing battle with a detrimental fungus commonly known as White Nose Syndrome (WNS). It has been isolated as Geomyces destructans and has similarities to the Chytrid (Bd) fungus which is causing global mortalities of amphibians, and colony collapse disorder (CCD) associated with the decline of honey bees. Many scientists are trying to understand the fungus, first discovered in 2006, how it directly affects the bat, its transmission, and recovery plans to halt the devastation it has already succumbed onto chiropterans. Close to 7 million bats have died resulting from WNS since 2006. Some populations have lost over 90% of their bats. WNS have even reached bats that were already federally endangered such as the Indiana bat and grey bat. The fungus is most prominent during colder months, when bats are in hibernation. It is theorized that the fungus causes bats to prematurely wake up in winter, search for food that isn’t there, and eventually starve to death. Waking up from winter dormancy depletes the bats reserves. The fungus is also known to eat away at the wing membrane that limits or prohibits the bat from flight…a death sentence. WNS has predominately affected southeastern Canada, New England, and down the Appalachian states however it is continuing to spread. White-nose is only coupled with other reasons for population decline which include habitat loss, cave alterations, wind turbines, and direct mortality from human action. More information and updates on WNS can be found on the US Fish & Wildlife’s WNS page www.fws.gov/whitenosesyndrome/
Bats are a rabies vector species however less than half a percent are affected. Contact with a rabid species is rare in itself however you are much more likely to run into a rabid dog or cat than a bat.
Bats do not get tangled up in your hair nor attack humans. Anything contradictory would be result of an injured or disorientated bat. Sometimes a bat accidently becomes trapped in a home. Panic screams and bright lights only make a situation worse. A simple, safe, easy way to deal with that rare situation can be found here www.batcon.org/index.php/bats-…
Bats are not blind. Along with excellent vision they have mastered echolocation. They are far more coordinated than we humans are.
A mother bat can navigate through thousands of other calling pups to locate the unique call of her young.
Bat guano makes excellent fertilizer. If you have a colony on your property, consider mixing guano with compost. Your plants will love you.
Want to help?
If you have bats residing at your residence consider leaving them be. Report populations to your local state wildlife agency; they want to know!
If you must rid of them consider doing it safely. Information to do so is with your state wildlife agency and here www.batcon.org/index.php/bats-…
As an alternate install a bat house or several. They’re simple, cheap and easy. Would you rather have a swarm of mosquitoes instead? Blueprints and info are all over the web and some local places sell pre-made.
INFO INFO INFO! A bats best ally is an informed person. Understanding bats, their behaviors, and significance can vastly aid in conservation. Even if you dislike bats, respecting them and their role in the environment can be a winning situation.
Consider donating to research programs and/or to habitat conservation.
Get involved directly! Contact a wildlife organization or your state agency to see if there are any volunteer opportunities. Sometimes counting the number of bats exiting a roost, such as a barn, a few times in the summer is just the kind of data a biologist is counting on.
Educate others! Spread the word. Teach people that bats are vitally important to our ecosystem!