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  • The Importance of Bat Conservation

    The Importance of Bat Conservation

    by Dr. Mary Williams, R.N. D.C.

    Although many people fear bats, misconceptions are largely responsible for this unfounded unease. Bats are associated with evil and medical concerns; however, these creatures actually play several important roles in environmental management. By learning about bats, it's possible to dispel common myths. Bat conservation efforts are in also place to help protect these animals, which can benefit everyone. Anyone can participate in bat conservation. For instance, you can create an environment in your landscape that is bat-friendly. Features such as a pond and night-scented flowers will attract bats to your yard. By installing a bat house in your yard, you may provide a bat with a safe place to roost. This may enable a female bat to live in the house and raise her young.


    Bats and Pollination

    Bats play a major role in the pollination of fruits around the world. While pollinating birds and insects are often attracted to flowers with bright colors and rich scents, bats tend to prefer less-showy flowers. While these types of flowers may not have the same attention-getting colors and scents, they do have ample nectar to offer. Because bats are active at night, they supply pollinating services when birds and insects are not working. Bats use their tongues to reach flower nectar. As bats fly from flower to flower, they provide an important pollination service.


    Bats and Pest Control

    Bats have fast metabolisms, requiring them to spend the nighttime hours feeding to have enough food to sustain themselves. During the course of a night, some bats might consume as much as two-thirds of their weight in insects. Because of this high rate of insect consumption, bats can significantly reduce the number of insects that threaten agricultural crops. With bats present, crops such as corn, soybeans, and cotton receive important protection from insects that would otherwise threaten them. This may enable farmers to reduce their use of pesticides in some cases.


    Bats' Role in Seed Dispensing and Reforestation

    Bats also play an important role in spreading seeds. Bats feed on nectar and seeds and fly actively throughout the night. Bats may fly many miles each evening: In fact, some species of bats can cover as much as 250 miles in a single night. They may fly as high as 10,000 feet in the air, and they can reach speeds of up to 60 miles per hour. Many bats also migrate to warmer climates prior to winter because they need to live in temperatures above freezing. As bats fly during their regular nightly activities or while migrating, their feces lands on the ground. Bat feces, also known as guano, contain seeds that the bats have ingested. These seeds, surrounded by natural fertilizer, will then germinate in the soil. Bats are even instrumental in the reforestation of areas that have been cleared of trees.


    Misconceptions About Bats

    A number of other misconceptions exist about bats and their connection with infectious disease. For example, many people think that all bats carry rabies. Actually, bats can catch rabies just like any other mammal can, and only half of a percent of all bats have rabies. Bats may have a connection with Ebola; however, scientists continue to research this connection. Fruit bats in West Africa may be hosts for the virus, and if other animals or humans come in contact with an infected fruit bat, the virus may transfer.