Perhaps no other mammal has captured the imagination so much as the bat. Our only self-propelled flying relative, bats, have been the inspiration for thousands of years, from folklore and legends to even holding a place in the pantheon of gods of many cultures worldwide.
Often accused along with other rodents, bats have often taken a lot of scorn, but primarily because of how misunderstood they have been. Through education and study, we have learned much more about the benefits of bats and how they positively impact our world and daily lives.
Benefits of Bats
Bats aren’t much different than we are. They rely on communities and communication for survival. They raise their young and inhabit areas for generations, just like our towns and cities.
As though being able to fly and capture prey with echolocation wasn’t cool enough, bats are an essential part of our ecology and bring all sorts of benefits to the environment. Here are some benefits of our humble, fuzzy friends, the bats.
Variety is the spice of life
More than 45 species of bats live in our towns, cities, national parks, and open spaces. Each bat colony has a particular niche it fills and a job to do in the grand scheme of things. From hunters to pollinators and every job in between, bats occupy a lot of jobs that need to be done to keep the ecosystem running smoothly.
Without bat populations occupying certain niches in our ecosystems, it is difficult to predict how much the resulting ripple effect could negatively impact our world. This is just one of the reasons bat conversation is critical in protecting the natural balance of our environment.
Many bats are insectivores, and rather than the myths perpetuated by what bats eat, the vast majority of them prefer spending the night hours snacking on insects. A typical brown bat can eat thousands of mosquitoes per night, which means that a bat box or a local bat colony eats exponentially more mosquitoes than an individual. Worldwide, mosquitoes are responsible for more human deaths than any other animal. Studies estimate that the bats taken care of naturally save billions of dollars annually for agriculture through pest control.
Integral to ecosystems
Bat colonies play their part in the natural balance of environmental life cycles. Here are just a few ways they contribute to the bigger picture:
- Seed distribution: Bats help distribute seeds through herbivorous bats feeding on fruits and spreading seeds through their droppings to new areas or via fertilized seeds attaching to their fur and falling off into new areas mid-flight.
- The food chain: Not only are bats an effective predator, but they are also a food source for other predators. Food to raptors such as hawks, owls, eagles, coyotes, foxes, mountain lions, and other mammals, the bat provides calories to a variety of animals. Deceased bats also provide nourishment to fungi and other saprophytic organisms.
- Fertilizer: Guano, or collected bat droppings, is incredibly high in nitrates, which provide a source of nutrients to the soil. The areas around bat caves are very rich in lichens, and grasses, trees, shrubs, and other vegetation benefit from this source of plant-friendly nitrogen to promote growth.
- Pollination: Not all bats are hunters. Some bats live similarly to hummingbirds and even bees, subsisting on the nectar of various kinds of flowers. Their feeding habits help distribute pollen and increase plant fertilization for a wide area.
Environmental canary in the coal mine
The more we learn about bats, the more we can see how in tune they are with the environment. Climate change, environmental pollution, and diseases have significantly impacted bat populations over the last few decades. Climate change may be a culprit in recent bat colony declines due to a parasitic fungus called white-nose syndrome that has threatened bat populations.
The decline of bat colonies has reflected a need for bat conservation and served as a wake-up call for land management, pesticide use, and other environmental impacts which could climb up the food chain and create significant problems for people such as bats and other mammals.
We have learned a lot from bats that have applied to practical technological advancement. Not only is their method of echolocation useful for applications such as sonar, but echolocation has been useful in helping people with visual impairments. Echolocation is a technique used by the blind to navigate their surroundings. Bat guano, due to its high potassium nitrate content, has been used as an ingredient in gun powder and commercial fertilizer.
Masters of flight
Through studying bats, people have incorporated the mechanics used by this humble flying mammal into our quest to conquer the skies. What once mystified people as they watched bats flit through the skies at night is the technology that has let skydiving daredevils in flight suits freefall and fall through the skies in thrill-seeking high-adrenaline sports.
How can you help
Bats need to be protected, and the more we learn about them, it becomes obvious why this is. Despite their stigma over the years, they have been our silent allies of the night longer than recorded history. They help our farmers, control pests, and assist our crops and wildflowers throughout the summer months.
Bats have been the source of inspiration for cultures, artists, and civilizations. As their habitats are encroached on by urban sprawl, monoculture farming, and human expansion, their existence is threatened.
You can help by building bat houses, not harming bats that have wandered into your living areas, and in case you have come across a bat colony, it is better for the bats and the rest of us if they are relocated. Bats should be treated like the allies they are instead of pests.
Contact us if you need bat removal services for commercial or residential areas. Our bat removal experts will respond within 24 hours.