by Dr. Mary Williams, R.N. D.C.
Although many people fear bats, misconceptions are largely responsible for this unfounded unease. Bats are associated with evil and medical concerns; however, these creatures actually play several important roles in environmental management. By learning about bats, it's possible to dispel common myths. Bat conservation efforts are in also place to help protect these animals, which can benefit everyone. Anyone can participate in bat conservation. For instance, you can create an environment in your landscape that is bat-friendly. Features such as a pond and night-scented flowers will attract bats to your yard. By installing a bat house in your yard, you may provide a bat with a safe place to roost. This may enable a female bat to live in the house and raise her young.
Bats and Pollination
Bats play a major role in the pollination of fruits around the world. While pollinating birds and insects are often attracted to flowers with bright colors and rich scents, bats tend to prefer less-showy flowers. While these types of flowers may not have the same attention-getting colors and scents, they do have ample nectar to offer. Because bats are active at night, they supply pollinating services when birds and insects are not working. Bats use their tongues to reach flower nectar. As bats fly from flower to flower, they provide an important pollination service.
- Bravo Bats! (PDF)
- Night Flyers: Desert Pollinator Bats
- The Benefits of Bats (PDF)
- Fur Versus Feathers: Pollen Delivery by Bats and Hummingbirds and Consequences for Pollen Production (PDF)
Bats have fast metabolisms, requiring them to spend the nighttime hours feeding to have enough food to sustain themselves. During the course of a night, some bats might consume as much as two-thirds of their weight in insects. Because of this high rate of insect consumption, bats can significantly reduce the number of insects that threaten agricultural crops. With bats present, crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton receive important protection from insects that would otherwise threaten them. This may enable farmers to reduce their use of pesticides in some cases.
- Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture (PDF)
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Wildlife (PDF)
- Placing a Dollar Value on Services Provided by Bats
- Bats Can Pack a Punch in Pest Control (PDF)
Bats also play an important role in spreading seeds. Bats feed on nectar and seeds and fly actively throughout the night. Bats may fly many miles each evening: In fact, some species of bats can cover as much as 250 miles in a single night. They may fly as high as 10,000 feet in the air, and they can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Many bats also migrate to warmer climates prior to winter because they need to live in temperatures above freezing. As bats fly during their regular nightly activities or while migrating, their feces lands on the ground. Bat feces, also known as guano, contain seeds that the bats have ingested. These seeds, surrounded by natural fertilizer, will then germinate in the soil. Bats are even instrumental in the reforestation of areas that have been cleared of trees.
- Old World Fruit Bats Can be Long-Distance Seed Dispersers Through Extended Retention of Viable Seeds in the Gut
- Night Friends: American Bats (PDF)
- Fruit Bats as Seed Dispersers (PDF)
A number of other misconceptions exist about bats and their connection with infectious disease. For example, many people think that all bats carry rabies. Actually, bats can catch rabies just like any other mammal can, and only half of a percent of all bats have rabies. Bats may have a connection with Ebola; however, scientists continue to research this connection. Fruit bats in West Africa may be hosts for the virus, and if other animals or humans come in contact with an infected fruit bat, the virus may transfer.
- Exaggerated Disease Warnings
- Common Misconceptions About Rabies (PDF)
- Bats and Rabies
- Bat Myths Busted
- Bat Conservation
- Bat Conservation and Management
- Bat Encounters (PDF)
- Going to Bat for Bats (PDF)
- White Nose Syndrome of Bats Fact Sheet
- Bats: General Information (PDF)
- Wind Turbine Interactions With Birds, Bats, and Their Habitats (PDF)
- Bats and Bat Habitats: Guidelines for Wind Power Projects (PDF)
- Why Do Bats Live in Caves?
- Bat Facts (PDF)
- Facts About Bats
- Vampire Bat
- Fascinating Bat Facts (PDF)
- Life History and Ecology of the Chiroptera
- Bat-Tastic Facts