Battle for the Bats!
We’ve all thought it, “a flying rat!”, or mouse or other form of rodent. Bats are right up there with spiders with a lot of people. The myth that they carry rabies, that they are dirty, that they will try to fly in your hair; we see it, hear it, believe it. And our flying little superheros have been given a bad rap because of it.
You likely know that bats are nocturnal, but there are many other, very cool things about bats that you may not know, about how they help our economy and their role in medicine and science. Bats are vital to healthy ecosystems and human economies worldwide.
Did You Know?
The more than 1,200 species of bats are one-fifth of all mammal species and are incredibly diverse, ranging from the world’s smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat weighing less than a penny, to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans.
- Bats are the slowest reproducing mammals on earth for their size, ranging from 40 days to six months. And females can delay gestation for up to seven months, usually during winter months.
- Bats are very clean animals and groom themselves almost constantly to keep their fur soft and clean.
- Bats can see in color, and much like cats, they can see in very low light.
Bats and the Economy
- Biological pest control! Bats consume vast amounts of insects -including some of the most damaging agricultural pests.
- As primary predators of night flying insects, bats consume enormous quantities of agricultural pests and reduce the need for chemical pesticides. Bats in the U.S. alone eat thousands of tons of insects nightly.
- A study in Science states that bats provide more than $3.7 billion in pest control services every year. Because of this, bats help reduce the amount of chemicals in the environment.
- Pollinator Power! Bats pollinate plants such as fruit trees that support local economies.
- Almost a third of the world’s bats feed on the fruit or nectar of plants. In return for their meals, these bats are vital pollinators of countless plants and essential seed dispensers with a major role in regenerating rainforests.
- Some bat species act as pollinators and seed dispersers for important crops such as bananas, peaches, mangoes, cashews, almonds, dates and figs.
Bats and Medicine -
- Bats play a significant role in science and medicine. Research on bats has enabled advancement in sonar, vaccine development, blood coagulation, and more.
- Only 3 species of bats (out of more than 1,200) all located in Latin America are vampires. Even vampires are useful, an enzyme in their saliva is among the most potent blood-clot dissolvers known and is used to treat human stroke victims.
Why The Interest In Bats?
Because bats are dying off at an alarming rate. Bat populations have been decimated in recent years due to the white-nose syndrome. This has resulted in the recent listing of the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) as a threatened species and listing the Indiana bat as an endangered species.
The Forest Service is an agency leader in bat education and outreach, building a strong coalition of education partners through the BatsLive distance learning project, funding bat conservation efforts in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa, and leading research on the causes and control of White Nosed Syndrome.
Can I Do Anything?
YES! To help our flying superhero friends, we invite you to learn about bats, share your knowledge with others, and protecting habitat for bats. Following are just a few ways you can be a friend to the bats:
Learn about what fascinating creatures bats are, how they benefit the ecosystem, and the threats they currently face, then share this cool information with your friends and family.
Knowledge is key to bat conservation so please share this newly acquired knowledge with your friends and family!
- BatsLIVE! and EduBat - http://batslive.pwnet.org/
- Bat Facts PDF
- Battle for the Bats Brochure (pdf) – link to be created
- White Nosed Syndrome
- White Nosed Syndrome
- Install a bat house. Free plans and tips for attracting bats can be found at Bat Conservation International
- Create and cultivate bat habitat in your yard by protecting and planting native vegetation, leaving trees standing, and creating small ponds where bats can get a drink.