On Halloween, what better time to contemplate the ickies on our planet? The blood suckers, the scaries that fly at you at night, and that build nests in your hair when your unaware!
In case you haven’t guessed, on this crisp fall day, as I chew on Halloween Gummies in grotesque shapes, I’m thinking of bats. I admit, outside of them in Gummie forms, I’ve never been a big fan. But, thanks to a friend who works at Defenders of Wildlife, I’ve become a convert. Maybe you too?
Bat Myths and Fact
Even before they became a part of popular culture, I was a huge vampire (in “human” or “ex-human” form) fan. I can’t say how many times I’ve read Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I’ll even admit I’m one of the early Buffy the Vampire Slayer series fans. But, unfortunately, all this vampire-ness has really given the real animals a
bat bad rap.
- 70% of the species of bats are insect eaters. A single bat can eat 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour! By doing so, they protect our crops and help lower the spread of insect-carrying diseases. Most of the remaining species are fruit, nectar, and pollen eaters. The fruit eaters are known to be great seed dispersers; those that feed on nectar are pollinators (like bees) to nighttime blooming flowers.
- There is, indeed, such a thing as a vampire bat. However, of the more than 1,100 species, only three are vampires, are limited to Latin America, and even those will only lick up teaspoon amounts of blood from livestock or birds.
- Bats are not “rats with wings,” they are not even part of the family rodentia. In fact, they’re closer to primates.
- Bats have no interest in our hair and have such great “sonar” that they’re unlikely to get caught. They’re kind of like dolphins in their way of navigation. Being pretty shy creatures, they’re more likely to avoid us altogether. IF a bat seems to “swoop” toward you, it’s probably after some of those yummy mosquitoes hovering above your head.
- Bats are no more likely to carry rabies than any other wild animal.
- Bat poo, or guano, is so high in nutrients, it’s mined in caves and used to fertilize crops.
- Some biologists believe that without bat pollination and seed-dispersal, many local ecosystems would gradually collapse.
- Bat populations from the Northeast to the Midwest of the United States are threatened by “White Nose Syndrome”, a fungus that grows on the nose, ears and wings of a bat. Mortality rates of 90%- 100% have been observed. More than a million bats have already died.
- Because of their bad reputation, humans have been known to light fires in caves to destroy them. There have been incidents cited where humans beat bats to death which were roosting in construction areas.
- Cave explorers (spelunkers) can inadvertently wake bats up during their hibernation period. Bats store up fat for the winters months, and if woken up, can use up anywhere from 10 – 30 days of energy. This could prevent them from surviving through the cold months.
A world without bats would be a very different place. Exactly how great an impact their extinction would have isn’t exactly known, but it would have a rapid agricultural and direct human impact.
What can we do?
Via the Center for Biological Diversity, Nils and I have sent a petition to the Secretary of the Department of Interior urging him to declare White-Nose Syndrome a wildlife emergency, to dedicate funding toward research, and to put in place plans and take action toward preservation.
I don’t want to someday be eating my candy bats out of a bag of ”Extinct Animals Gummies”, so Nils and I have decided to adopt a bat through Defenders of Wildlife. We’re having the “adoption papers” put in the name of our six-year-old nephew, to help him to understand the importance that bats have on our lives.
Last, but not least, Nils has specs for building a bat house on the farm!