Go to Bat for Bats

Contact(s): Lisa Klaus


IRONWOOD, Mich. (OCTOBER 25, 2017) – Bat Week 2017 is October 24 – October 31; an annual, international celebration of the role of bats in nature!  The theme this year is “Go to Bat for Bats” and emphasizes the big and little things folks can do to make a difference for bats – from simply learning more about them, to educating others, to building bat boxes and engaging in citizen science. This annual celebration is organized by a team of representatives from across the United States and Canada from conservation organizations and government departments.

The significance of bats is an important message, especially around Halloween.  At this time of year, people tend to think more about bats, and not always in a positive light. Bats are one of the most important animals in our environment.  With more than 1300 different species around the world, bats are diverse in both how they look and how they keep ecosystems balanced.

In North America, bats primarily eat insects – lots of insects.  One insect eating bat can consume 2,000 – 6,000 insects in a single night!  Since bats eat so many moths, beetles, flies and mosquitoes, we can use fewer pesticides to control insects.  That makes our backyard, neighborhood and food healthier and saves farmers billions of dollars.  Bats are also important in pollination and seed dispersal. Research on bats has led to advancements in sonar, airplane maneuverability and navigation, as well as anti-clotting medication.  Bat guano is used as a powerful fertilizer worldwide, offering economic and agricultural rewards.

Despite being widely beneficial to humans and ecosystems, bat populations have been experiencing dramatic declines in recent years due in large part to a disease called White-nose Syndrome (WNS), which was first detected in a cave in New York in 2006.  WNS is a cold-loving fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that collects and grows around the muzzle and wings of hibernating bats.  The fungus causes bats to act abnormally and depletes their stored energy reserve during hibernation resulting in death.  WNS has spread throughout most of the Eastern U.S. and has recently been detected in Washington State.  The disease has killed more than 6 million bats in the U.S. thus far, with a mortality rate as high as 90-100% in some hibernacula.  WNS is devastating our local bat population here in the Western Upper Peninsula as well.  If WNS was not bad enough, bat populations are also declining due to habitat destruction, pesticide use that kills their food sources, and extermination. 

What can you do to help bats?  There are many ways you can Go to Bat for Bats, here are just a few:

  • Build and install a bat house (www.batweek.org has free plans)!
  • Spread the word about the value of bats and help dispel the myths.
  • Plant a native tree to help provide places for bats to live.  Trees such as oak, hickory, and maple have loose bark that many bats like.
  • Remove non-native invasive plants.  Native plants support a greater diversity of wildlife, including birds and bats, and usually have higher nutrient quality. 
  • Turn off your lights when they aren’t needed.  Research show that bat activity is generally lower in well-lit areas.
  • Plant a native bat garden with bat friendly plants and shrubs such as evening primrose, bergamot, goldenrods, asters, rosemary, lemon balm, lavender, New Jersey tea, chives, and mints.
  • Consider bats when selecting your firewood, leave standing dead and dying trees with loose peeling bark and good sun exposure for wildlife to use as habitat.

We hope you join the Ottawa National Forest and Go to Bat for Bats.  To learn more about Bat Week, bat facts, and how you can help those flying, furry mammals we love—and need—so much, visit www.batweek.org.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The Forest Service’s Eastern Region includes 20 states in the Midwest and East, stretching from Maine, to Maryland, to Missouri, to Minnesota.  There are 17 national forests and one national tallgrass prairie in the Eastern Region. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/R9.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.fed.us.