Climate Change and Bat Migration: What You Need to Know

Climate Change and Bat Migration: What You Need to Know

Movies and media have portrayed bats as scary and dangerous for many years. As a result, many people cringe when they think of bats and fear for their personal safety. However, bats are not hazardous to us. The reality is that we are a danger to them.

Our consumption habits and the ensuing climate change have created shifts in bat migration patterns throughout the United States. These changes in the bats’ patterns can have long-lasting effects not only for the animals but for us as well.

Bats help us in a variety of different ways, and alterations in their migratory patterns can spell disaster for a wide range of people, including those in the agrarian sector.

Mexican free-tailed bats taking flight

Why do Bats Migrate?

The reasons why bats migrate vary between the species. Some travel because food is scarce in their current location, and others migrate to more ideal climates for raising young or hibernating.

An example of this is the Mexican Free-Tailed Bat. It lives in the Carlsbad Caverns of California during the summer and migrates to Mexico during the winter.

How Have Migratory Patterns Changed?

In one example, bats’ patterns are showing a trend of early migration into Texas from Mexico. Bats typically migrate into the Bracken Caves area in early summer and spend the entirety of the time there feasting on insects before migrating back. Studies now show, however, that they are arriving earlier than in prior decades.

After years of studying bat patterns, scientists have realized that changes in climate coincide with migratory shifts.

Data from the migratory patterns at Bracken Caves also shows that bats are starting to stay in Texas instead of flying back to Mexico for the winter. This occurrence is a phenomenon known as overwintering and is symptomatic of climate change.

Bats normally return to Mexico during the winter because the insects are no longer around in the north. The northern winters are colder and kill off the insects.

However, new data concludes that insects in the north are surviving the winter now, leaving the bats with no reason to migrate back south. Why aren’t insects dying off in the cold season? Because rising temperatures allow for insects to thrive longer.

Flying bat against white brick wall

Negative Consequences for the Bats

Any slight change in migratory patterns can spell disaster for bat colonies. If bats migrate early to a location, it might expose them to a cold front which can lead many in the colony to freeze to death.

Some bats have been migrating sooner than usual, and these movements have clashed with rainfall patterns, according to the article. Many insects breed in lakes, puddles, and other watersheds, and if bats get there too early before the rain, they will miss out on a bounty of insects.

If bats do not have access to these insect harvests, they will struggle to feed themselves and their offspring, and have trouble reproducing the next generation.

Bats in the sky

Bats are Worthy of Our Protection

Despite the longstanding public perception of bats, they are pretty awesome animals and do a lot for our ecosystem. Someone who has never seen bats other than on TV might be wary, but ask a scientist, a farmer, or even a gardener, and they will tell you how essential bats are.

Bats are significant helpers in the production of agriculture. In fact, we need them desperately. They devour insects that ruin crops. Believe it or not, some bats even pollinate plants like cocoa. So, if you love chocolate, thank the bats.

Even their feces is important. Their guano is a very efficient fertilizer for crops and plants. And vampire bats’ saliva even has anticoagulant properties that help prevent strokes in humans.

Yes, indeed, bats help us thrive and deserve our protection. As scientists study more shifts in bat patterns, they are learning even more about how significant these creatures are to our ecosystem and food production. Climate change can impact all areas of the bat life cycle, and there will be a ripple effect felt all over.

The Ripple Effect

Ecosystems are intertwined. If something happens in one part of the ecosystem, it can have far-reaching implications for everyone and everything in it.

Even if you have not been aware of this change in bat migratory habits and have never wondered “when do bats migrate?”, the reality is that these changes might already be affecting you in one way or another.

In an ecosystem, you cannot remove one component and not expect there to be some disruption in the larger system as a result. In layman’s terms, if you mess with the bat, other things will get messed up as well. The repercussions are significant and global.

If bats die off by the thousands due to lack of food or cold fronts, then there will be a smaller population to eat insects in the next seasons. Fewer bats mean more crop-eating insects. More crop-eating insects mean crop devastation. And having a low crop yield can eventually affect your wallet, as produce prices go up to meet supply and demand.

A drop in bat population or overwintering can also create an increased need for insecticides and pesticides to keep the crops safe. A rise in the use of chemicals is a health hazard to all.

Mexican free-tailed bat in flight

Bats are Friends, Not Foe

While bats may be inconvenient if they get into your home, they are not dangerous. They are friendly neighbors to have, especially if you have unwanted insects.

Most bats live in large colonies like those in Bracken Caves, Texas. But every once in a while, these animals branch out and hang out in more urban environments. If you ever need help removing bats from your home, call a professional. The team at Central Plains Bat Removal is here to help.

Many bats have protected status as endangered species. They require an experienced staff to remove them safely and humanely. After all, they are the defenders of agriculture, so we should treat them with respect and care. Call Central Plains Bat Removal at (605)351-5718 to do just that.

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