Cartoon bats can make great decorations during the month of October when Halloween is on everyone’s mind, but the truth is bats aren’t scary at all. In fact, bats are pretty amazing creatures that keep our ecosystem in check.
What’s truly frightening is the alarming rate at which we’re losing large bat populations due to White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). WNS is a relatively new disease marked by a fuzzy white fungus that grows on the nose, ears and wings of bats. It’s currently spread in the U.S. and Canada and affects bats while they’re hibernating in caves and mines. Scientists have estimated that we’ve already lost 6.7 million bats to WNS.
In honor of these little creatures in danger, we’re sharing the top 5 reasons to be batty about bats.
Bats Are Great Alternatives to Harmful Pesticides
Florida researchers have begun installing more bat boxes in an effort to lower the mosquito population and combat agricultural pests. Some species of bats are known to eat over 80 different kinds of insects, making bats a natural alternative to harmful pesticides.
Bats Pollinate Plants
Although some species of bats are great for eating harmful insects, not all bats prefer the crunch of bugs! Some species of bats prefer the nectar of flowers. As bats feed from flowers, pollen becomes attached to their fur and then is used to cross-pollinate more plants as they feed from different flowers.
Bat Droppings Can Be Used as Fertilizer
Known as guano, the droppings from insect- and fruit-eating bats has been used for years to enrich soil. Some gardeners prefer guano as a fertilizer because it’s fast-acting and has very little odor. Unlike some chemical-laden fertilizers, guano is natural so it’s good for the environment.
Bats Disperse Seeds
Large expanses of our world’s rainforests are stripped each year for logging, agriculture or other reasons, leaving enormous areas cleared. These areas are restored each year, in large part due to bats and their ability to disperse seeds. According to Bat Conservation International, “Seeds dropped by bats can account for up to 95 percent of the first new growth.”
Bats Help Us Make Tequila
Tequila is a spirit made from fermenting the base of blue agave plants, which have flowers and nectar that bats love. As they move and drink from agave plant flowers, bats cross-pollinate and help the plant reproduce. Agave plants rely solely on pollinating bats in order to reproduce.
Now that you know how bats help out our ecosystem, here are a few ways you can help ensure our beloved bats remain protected:
Do not enter caves or mines where bats are hibernating
Report bats with symptoms to your state or local wildlife agency
Spread the word about WNS and the value of our bats!
Here is a video full of fun facts about bats:
Would you consider using bat guano as fertilizer in your garden? Share your thoughts with other gardeners in a comment below!
Would you ever install a bat box in your yard to combat insects?