This last week I took my daughter to an activity at one of our local libraries about bats. We had a really fabulous time and learned quite a bit about the only flying mammals in the world. We even got directions to build a bat house and learned how we can help with bat conservation. And aside from the probable fire code violations for having stuffed about 300 people in a room built for a max of about 50, we had no issues with bats getting loose and flying into people’s hair; no one got rabies; and not a person had their blood sucked.
In fact, out of the 1,105 species of bats in the world, there are only three species of vampire bats – and they live in the tropics from southern Mexico down to South America. Not really a fun fact for Halloween, but it should relieve some people that have chiroptophobia, or an irrational fear of bats.
In most parts of America, the bats are pretty small. See what our bat-handler is holding:
Yes, that’s a bat – the “Big Brown Bat“. It’s what we commonly see here in the Eastern part of the U.S., and it’s only 4-5 inches tall! Not so big after all, eh?
The true big bats are in the tropics, and are sometimes called Flying Foxes. In the tropics, there are fruit-eating bats that help with seed dispersal. Without the aid of bats those bats, many of the tropical ecosystems would be out of balance: they are that beneficial. And then there are nectar-drinking bats that help with the pollination of plants like the mango, cashew, and bananas.The saguaro cactus in our desserts here in the U.S. have help with pollination thanks to these bats.
Bats are also a super beneficial creature for us organic gardeners. Insect eating bats eat approximately 1,000 to 6,000 insects a night (the equivalent of eating our own height in pizza every hour for about 6 hours straight!) including mosquitos, tomato hornworms, wasps, cutworm moths, cucumber and potato beetles, and corn earworms.
If you’d like to take advantage of a native and organic means of pest control – try enrolling the help of bats. They’ll feed on nighttime flying insects, including pollinators, so be sure to have plants that will attract these pollinators to increase your bat population. Evening primroses, moonflowers, and phlox are just a few. Batconservation.org is a great website with tips on gardening for bats (they were our hosts for our evening at the library).
This same website offers instructions for building your own bat houses – an excellent winter and early spring craft project, methinks. Since bats hibernate in the cold season, you’d want to have housing available when they start forming maternity colonies (bats mate in the fall before they hibernate).
And finally, the site has some really great facts for kids, teaching links, information on the medical advances thanks to bats, and lots of FAQs. I’ll also direct parents and educators to Step into Second Grade with Mrs. Lemons, where she shares some fun PowerPoints that she made about bats for her second grade class. NatGeo Kids has a fun presentation about the fun and spooky Vampire bat, and Defenders of Wildlife has some great information regarding the conservation of bats and even helps you “adopt” a bat.
Jennifer can also be found at Unearthing this Life, in her kitchen, or reading stories to her daughter.