Creating space where native trees and shrubs, Piedmont Prairies, and Pocket Forests can flourish also means creating space where wildlife is welcome. That is the goal: to create a healthy ecosystem that mimics nature. Unfortunately, some furry friends get a warmer reception than others.
Birds, bunnies, and bees are adored, while bats, spiders, and snakes get a bad rap. For example, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word “bat”? Likely rabies or evil villains or vampires, right? These myths have turned bats into something to fear rather than protect.
The truth is that bats are fuzzy and cute little flying mammals who play an essential role in creating a healthy ecology. They eat insects, pollinate plants, and – best of all – chow down on mosquitoes by the thousands. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, bats eat enough pests to save more than $1 billion per year in crop damage and pesticide costs in the corn industry alone. Across all agricultural production, consumption of insect pests by bats results in a savings of more than $3 billion per year.
Bats are Endangered
Like most other species on this planet, populations of bats are declining. This is partially due to the usual causes, like disease and land development by humans. But bats, unlike many other species, are targeted by people who often go to great lengths to actively kill them or usher them out of their roosts (homes) due to unfounded fears.
A common fear is that bats carry rabies. But getting rabies from bats is very rare. Most bats don’t carry rabies, and you must be bitten by a rabid bat to get infected. Just being around bats cannot transmit rabies. In 2021, five people in the U.S. died from rabies – and that was a particularly bad year. In that same year, 42,915 people died in car accidents in the U.S. A person living in the U.S. is more likely to catch leprosy or the plague than to contract rabies from a bat.
Still not convinced that bats are cool creatures? Here are some of our favorite fascinating facts about bats:
- Over the course of a summer, bats will eat thousands of mosquitos. The endangered Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus), which is native to N.C., eats around 500 mosquitoes in a night.
- Bats can fly up to 60 mph!
- Because they are active at night when it is completely dark, they catch insects by using echolocation instead of sight. This is one of the reasons why it seems like they are flying erratically.
- In Australia, bats are known as flying foxes and can have wingspans up to 5 feet long!
- Bat droppings, or guano, is considered one of the best types of fertilizer.
- When hibernating, bats can stop breathing for a full hour to conserve energy.
- Did we mention that they eat A LOT of mosquitos? Some sources say 500 a night, like we mentioned above, but others say 500 an HOUR.
But, because not everyone appreciates the benefits of bats, there are fewer and fewer flying through the night. According to the Nature Conservancy, more than half of the bat species in the United States are in severe decline or listed as endangered.
So, what can you do to help these fuzzy flying friends of the night?
- Install a bat house. (We recommend the DIY plans and ready-made houses available at Bat Conservation & Management.)
- Stop spraying chemicals in your yard.
- Turn off unnecessary lights at night. Light pollution harms bats.
- Do things that increase ecology and encourage diversity, like planting Pocket Forests, Piedmont Prairies, and native trees and shrubs.
Finally, help spread the word about bats! We need more bat lovers and bat ambassadors.
If you need assistance installing a bat box, we can help! Send us a message or call to schedule a consultation.