TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) – What do you get when you mix exotic bats, educators and people of all ages? The 9th annual Indiana Bat Festival at Indiana State University.
This year’s theme was “Bats Eat Bugs”, a look at the beneficial impact bats bring to the ecosystem.
“Bats are the major predators of our night-flying insects,” said Joy O’Keefe, director of the Center for Bat Research, Outreach and Conservation at ISU, “They are pretty much nature’s natural pest control.”
The festival is held every year at ISU to educate attendees on bats, as well as break down the typical stereotypes, or fears, people may have.
“Bats are kind of mysterious and we fear what we don’t understand,” said O’Keefe, “We hope that people come out to the festival to learn a little bit more about bats, so they can embrace bats as being a really beneficial part of our ecosystem.”
O’Keefe says the festival brings in about 1,000 people ever year. People from all over Indiana, and surrounding states, come to ISU to see the live bat presentations and learn about their behaviors. There are activities for everyone of all ages.
“It gets people excited about bats, it gets people wanting to learn new things about bats,” said O’Keefe, “Every year we have new speakers to talk about new subjects.”
One of the speakers and presenters you’ll see is Rob Mies. Mies has been presenting at the Indiana Bat Festival since its start nine years ago.
“This is a place I want to be every year, and it’s a great place for people to learn,” said Mies, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation.
Mies has been studying bats for about 25 years. He has also traveled the world researching, studying and presenting bats.
“It changes people’s attitudes,” said Mies, “When you get a chance to see bats up close, you can see that they’re not big, scary animals.”
In Mies’s presentation, attendees got the chance to have their own personal encounter with different kinds of exotic bats. A big hit with the audience was a face-to-face experience with the largest bat in the world, the Malayan Flying Fox.
While the presentations are fun, and engaging, Mies hopes people take in a better understanding about bats and what they contribute to their surroundings.
“I hope they take in the opportunity to do something for bats,” said Mies, “Putting up a bat house in your backyard keeps bats living in your backyard and eating insects, planting wildflower gardens gives bats healthy food to eat. These are just simple things we can do in our backyards and wildlife are going to benefit from it.”
The Bat Festival holds two sessions during the day. Part one is from 10am to 4pm in the science building at ISU. Part two is from 6pm to 10pm at Dobbs Park on E. Poplar Drive in Terre Haute.
For more information on the ISU Bat Center, click here.
Are you having trouble with bats sneaking into your home? Mies suggest a way to keep bats out of the house is by installing one for them, a bat house. Bat houses provide a safe place for bats and their young. For more details on bat houses, as well as other frequently asked questions, click here.