October is bat appreciation month! Overall, bats get a relatively bad reputation for their unique characteristics. While it is bat appreciation month, we should really appreciate them all year long. Bats offer a variety of benefits. Here are some of the great work they do for their ecosystems:
- They control the insect populations. Bats eat up to their body weight or more in insects a night. This averages out to about 1,200 insects in an hour. This reduces the amount of damage to crops due to insects. Bats that eat insects are called “insectivorous.”
- They help to produce some of our foods. Nectar-eating bats can pollinate flowers, just like a bee can. The nectar-eating bats will travel from flower to flower drinking the nectar. As they travel, they transfer pollen from one flower to another. This causes the plants to produce fruit and seeds. Bananas, avocados, dates, peaches, and many other foods rely on pollination by bats to survive.
- Bat droppings are called guano and it is great for our gardens. Guano contains nitrogen, potassium, and phosphate. This helps plants to take root and to stay healthy while growing.
- Bats rely on insects to survive, but there are other animals in the ecosystem that rely on eating bats. Hawks, falcons, and owls eat bats to obtain calories in their diet. Some mammals, like weasels and raccoons, will even eat bats while they are roosting.
- Seed dispersal is important to maintain plants and forests. Fruit-eating bats help with distributing seed. This is especially important for cleared and damaged rain forests.
The variety of benefits that come from bats is amazing. It is sad to hear that more than half of the bat species in the United States are in severe decline or even listed as endangered. Bat species are declining due to loss of habitat as well as from a disease called white nose syndrome.
What are some things you can do to show your appreciation for bats?
- You can avoid disturbing bats. Some bats go into hibernation for the winter. If a bat is disturbed during hibernation, it can become active. Bats have a fat reserve that they use during hibernation. If they become active too early, the increased activity may also lead to starvation.
- Install a bat house. Some areas may not have many trees or other good roosting sites. A bat house can provide a space for them to go. Bat houses are most likely to be occupied if they are mounted by springtime before the bats start to return.
- Dead trees provide bats with a great habitat. Leave dead trees when it is not hazardous to do so. Bats prefer to roost in the space between the bark and the tree. Trees that have died recently are a bats preferred choice.