Silver-haired bat image courtesy of Merlin Tuttle
Today is officially Bat Appreciation Day, and although there aren't many places we can go to celebrate this momentous occasion, we can certainly reflect on the many things we are grateful to our 47 North American bat species for providing. While we're at it, we can also do a few things on our own to help bats out while we're sheltering in place looking for fun things to do.
What exactly do bats provide? If you don't already know, hold on to your hat!
Here are just a few of the many benefits of bats:
• They eat insects that cause diseases like Zika, malaria, dengue fever and encephalitis in humans.
• They consume crop pests, which saves farmers billions of dollars in pesticides every year and keeps our food safer
• They pollinate plants such as bananas, mango and agave - the latter is the source of tequila. We can all definitely use a margarita these days!
• They repopulate areas of deforestation by spreading seeds, including rain forests.
• They provide nutrients to other cave dwelling animals through their nutrient-rich guano.
And although there's no scientific evidence, they must walk on water, too! Bats aren't your average flying mammal; they're your only flying mammal, and today shouldn't be the only day we celebrate them, we should add them to our daily "I'm thankful for" list.
What can you do to help bats? You know you want to, so here you go:
• Never, everrrr kill bats!!
• Buy a bat house that is appropriate for your state.
• Never use pesticides on your lawn.
• Keep lakes and streams healthy and clean to give bats fresh drinking water, and in some cases, habitat to hunt.
• Remove bats humanely from structures. If a bat gets into your attic, open a window or wait until they leave and plug up any holes they may be using. Remember, bats can fit through holes the size of a dime. Remember during spring and summer, if a bat is female, and you exclude her from your home, she may be leaving behind a pup. Click here for guidance on safe bat removal.
• Keep dead trees on your property. Bats need them for roosting!
• Plant native pollinator gardens to support the insects bats feed on.
• Rid your yard of invasive species so native species can grow and support healthy insect populations.
• Never disturb roosting bats.
• Keep your cats indoors. They kill billions of birds and mammals every year, including bats.
• Use motion sensor lights around your home, rather than porch lights that stay on all night.
• Never go from cave to cave without completely decontaminating everything you wore or carried. This is one way white-nose syndrome (WNS) spreads (See White-nose Syndrome section).
• Support the bat conservation organizations
• Spread correct information about bats to friends and family
• Become a citizen scientist. Sign up to help count bats in your state. Click here for a list of bat experts near you
See? Helping bats couldn't be easier. So celebrate them today and every day, and let's see if we can help increase their populations by working together.
Be on the lookout for Naturedigger's "The Bat App" coming soon to the App Store!