Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Bats — Heroes of the Night

Now is the perfect time to set aside superstition and myth to celebrate National Bat Week, October 25 – October 31, 2015.

BatsLittle brown bats peer out from their safe home in a bat house. (Organization of Bat Conservation)
It is easy to get caught up in the mystery and fear that surround bats, especially around Halloween. Instead of fearing bats, celebrate and help them during the second annual Bat Week, October 25-31. The 2015 Bat Week focuses on providing healthy places for bats to live and culminates with a world record attempt! Join the Forest Service and our partners on October 31st as we attempt to build 5,000 bat houses—the most bat houses built in a single day. You can join an eventlocated near you, host your own bat house building party, or build a bat house for your backyard.
Why celebrate and help bats? Because bats are fascinating animals that are important to our environment and our economy! Bats are the most important natural predators of night-flying insects and eat tons of mosquitoes, moths, beetles, crickets, leafhoppers and chinch bugs. Many of these are serious crop or forest pests or spread disease to humans or livestock. An article in Science magazine, “The Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture” estimates that bats provide between 3.7 and 53 billion dollars each year in pest control services in North America.
Why help? Because bats need us now more than ever. White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), a deadly fungal disease (harmless to humans), has killed over six million bats in just eight years. Learn how you can help them in the video Battle for Bats: Surviving White-Nose Syndrome from the U. S. Forest Service.

Celebrate Bats!

No matter where bats live, they always do important work. Just like the superheroes you see on Halloween, bats also have some surprising abilities!
  • Bats eat tons of insects. All but four of the 47 bat species in the U.S. and Canada feed solely on insects, including many crop and forest pests. Bats can consume more than half their body weight in insects each night, saving as much as $53 billion each year in pesticide and crop-damage costs.
  • Bats pollinate flowers and spread seeds. The remaining four North American bat species feed on nectar, pollen and the fruit of cacti and agaves growing in southwestern deserts. These species pollinate flowers and spread seeds that grow new plants (including trees).
  • Bats are the only mammals that can fly. While a few mammals can glide short distances (“flying” squirrels, for example), bats are the only mammals that can truly fly.
  • Bats are not rodents. They are mammals more closely related to humans than mice or rats.
  • Bats are not blind. Their eyesight is actually quite good.
  • Bats are clean animals. They groom themselves similar to the way cats do.
  • Bats have a very low incidence of rabies. Less than one half of one percent of bats gets rabies.
  • Bats will not get in your hair. They use echolocation—“bat sonar”—to navigate, and are exceptionally good at NOT flying into things. Learn more in the fun music video, Echolocation (courtesy of Bat Conservation International).

View Bats

Because bats are small, secretive and feed at night, many people have never seen them. Your best chance to see bats in flight is when they emerge at dusk and where there are a lot of night-flying insects. Watch next to a stream, lake, or pond, or near a meadow or large lawn, or along a forest edge. You might even see them flying around bright street or porch lights.
Some well-known places to see bats emerge are Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico; Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, Alabama; or at the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. Watch this video to see what thirsty bats do after they emerge at Craters of The Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho. Big Bend National Park, Texas, has 22 species of bats, more than any other national park.
For more bat-viewing destinations, check our camping suggestions below or visit Bat Conservation International’s Bat Viewing Sites around the World.

Camping Near Bats

Campers who stay up late at night have a better chance of spotting a bat. Watch for them darting about, catching insects over the light of your campfire. Here are a few campgrounds known as “best bets for bats” on federal lands:

Try This

Here are some ways that you can help bats:
  • Provide and maintain shelter for bats. Bats need a safe haven from predators, for hibernation, or for protection from extreme weather. Bat houses, barns, attics, caves or abandoned mines, hollow trees or rock crevices all offer shelter.
  • Build and install a bat house. You can also buy ready-made bat houses from retailers like the Organization for Bat Conservation. Help us set a world record on October 31st by building bat houses!
  • Volunteer! Some states and organizations sponsor bat emergence counts or other activities. Contact your state natural resource agency or local conservation groups for opportunities.
  • Plant a bat garden. Plant flowers that are late day or evening bloomers, especially dull white, green or purple flowers that emit strong, musty odors at night. Some examples are evening primrose, phlox, goldenrod, night flowering catchfly, fleabane, four o’clocks, salvia or moonflowers.
  • Stay out of closed caves, especially when bats are present. If caves are open, always follow decontamination protocols to avoid spreading WNS.

Eat This

Do you eat bananas, peaches, bread-fruit, mangoes, cashews, almonds, dates, figs or drink tequila? Do you like chocolate (from the cacao or cocoa tree) on Halloween? Then thank a bat! More than 500 plant species rely on bats for pollination and seed-dispersal. Learn more in the video We Need Bats, Bats Need Us from Bat Conservation International.

Get Started!

Visit Bat Conservation International or read these web articles to learn more:
Attention Teachers! Visit Project EduBat to find activities, educational curriculum, videos, posters and more to make bats come alive in your classroom.

Did You Know?

  • There are more than 1,000 species of bats living throughout the world—one-fourth of all mammals—and many of these live in the U.S.
  • Little brown myotis can stop breathing for almost an hour during hibernation to reduce their energy needs and have life spans that may exceed 32 years.
  • The Bumblebee Bat (also known as Kitti’s Hog-Nosed Bat), with a 6-inch (15.24 cm) wingspan is the world’s smallest bat.
  • The Flying Fox, with a wingspan of 78 inches (1.9 m), is the world’s largest.
  • Mexican free-tailed bats can fly 10,000 feet (3,048 m) high to feed or to catch a tailwind.
  • The pallid bat of western North America is immune to the stings of the scorpions and centipedes on which it feeds.
  • There are very few “vampire” bats. Only three species of bats feed on blood (none in the U.S.). An anti-coagulant enzyme in vampire bats’ saliva may one day help stroke victims.
Bruton Motor Sports News

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