Celebrating and Conserving Bats

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By Katrina Vaitkus

As Halloween approaches, so does the end of Bat Week, the annual, international celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation. Bats are more than just nocturnal animals that make for spooky stories and decorations. In fact, bats are crucial to ecosystems around the world.

Bats have a few notable and extremely important environmental roles:

  • They provide great natural pest control by eating mosquitoes, flies, crickets and much more. Bats help farmers reduce their need for pesticides, as they feast on many insects that plague crops. Their actions are worth more than $3.7 billion a year in the U.S.
  • Some bats are pollinators! In the tropical and subtropical regions of the Americas, some bat species eat nectar. Many regional plants, such as blue agave, rely on bats for pollination, making bats a crucial part of agriculture.
  • In tropical and subtropical areas, fruit-eating bats help maintain and revitalize forests by assisting with seed dispersal. These bats have earned the name “flying foxes” for their large bodies and big eyes.
  • In cave ecosystems, many species rely on nutrients carried in by water or fellow organisms. Bats, common cave-dwellers, help provide this service, as their guano is rich in nutrients.

Unfortunately, many species are fighting against habitat loss due to development, deforestation, climate change and more.

Here are some ways you can help:

  • Reduce pesticide usage to allow hungry bats to feast on pests in your area.
  • Promote natural bat habitat by leaving dead and dying trees in areas with a bat population.
  • Avoid disturbing bats by staying out of the caves and mines where they hibernate during the winter. If bats are woken up from hibernation too early, they may face starvation.
  • Visit batweek.org to browse resources on how to host an action or education event and to learn about events near you.

Another way you can help bats is by building a bat house to provide a place for them to roost. In September, the Morgan Conservation District (MCD) in Colorado partnered with Boy Scouts Troop #22 to host a Bat House Workshop where the Scouts assembled 30 bat houses. The workshop, held in Riverside Park, was made possible through a matching grant from the State Conservation Board and featured speaker Wendy Figueroa from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

“It was great to see our local Boy Scouts troop take an interest in bats and bat houses,” said Madeline Hagan, MCD District Manager. “We also had a few members from our local community attend the workshop. Overall, I was very happy to see the interest in protecting and preserving bat populations in our community.”

MCD is offering free bat houses in Fort Morgan. The district advises hanging your bat house at least six feet off the ground, facing south so bats can absorb heat from the sun.

Contact Madeline Hagan at morganconservationdistrict[at]gmail.com to learn more about the program.

Katrina Vaitkus is the Communications Coordinator for the National Association of Conservation Districts. She can be reached at katrina-vaitkus[at]nacdnet.org or 202-547-6223.

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Tags: pollinators, bats

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