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Photograph of flying bats against the sky at dusk
Bats in a Texas evening sky. Paul Cryan, USGS photographer, 2009.

Bats: Out of Our Nightmares and Into Our Hearts

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This post was written by Science Reference Specialist Ashley Cuffia.

Bats get a bad reputation in popular culture, and at no time of year is it more prevalent than Halloween. The image of a furry, flying nightmare with fangs, red eyes and leathery wings swooping down on unsuspecting innocents may play well in the movies; these notions could not be farther from the truth. In all sincerity, these small creatures are largely harmless and perform a wide array of beneficial services such as pest control and pollination. Let’s take a look at the bat with an open mind, and allow them to fly out of our nightmares and into our hearts.

Here are five amazing facts about bats:

  • Over 300 species of plants depend on bats for their pollination needs. Some of these include avocados, cacao and agave. So without bats, there would be a lot less chocolate, guacamole and tequila in the world!
  • Each night bats can eat their body weight in insects. This not only helps crops from being destroyed, but also lowers the number of bug bites we will get in the summer.
  • The average bat in the wild can live up to 20 years with some reaching their 30s. The oddity of this is that normally the smaller the animal the shorter the lifespan, however bats break that mold and spend their long life zipping around the sky.
  • Baby bats are called pups, and most bats give birth to a single pup. Mother bats will gather all their pups up into a nursing colony in the spring and watch over their young as they grow. Like all other mammals bats feed milk to their young until they are old enough to eat solid food.
  • As the only true flying mammal on the planet, they are not only unique but incredibly fast. Their rate of flight speed depends on the species, but some can reach up to 100mph.
Color lithograph of red and brown bats in various poses. L. Prang and Co, 1874
Color lithograph of red and brown bats in various poses. L. Prang and Co, 1874

So what can we do to help these furry little flying animals continue doing the hard work that they do? Think about planting a bat garden or building a bat house!

Just as planting a pollinator garden for bees and butterflies as mentioned in our blog “Butterflies, Beetles and Bees, Oh My! National Pollinator Week” there are a variety of things you can plant to encourage bats.

  • Bats love to eat moths, so planting flowers that host moths such as evening primrose and honeysuckle would increase the odds of these furry friends stopping by for a snack.
  • Trees not only give bats a place to snuggle up, but also provide a buffet of bugs for their diet.
  • Insects are attracted to very fragrant plants, so not only do you get to enjoy your sweet scented flowers, but also attract more insects for the bats to eat.
  • Artificial light in your yard will attract bugs, but it will negatively impact bat behavior, so keep that yard nice and dark.
  • Providing water is also very important, however it is not as simple as putting out a bird bath or bucket. Bats scoop up water as they fly so a pond or water trough 7 to 10 feet in length is ideal for them. Just remember to add in a little ramp out of the water in case one crash lands or another creature happens to fall in.
  • Finally think about building a bat house, this will give them somewhere warm and dark to spend the day catching some zzz’s.
Black and white drawings of bat heads and bat in flight, 1904 lithograph
Scientific illustration of bats. Lithograph by Adolph Giltsch and drawing by Ernst Haeckel. Published in Kunstformen der Natur, 1904

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  1. Thank you for the bat love! They are awesome creatures and more people need to know it. Lots of great information here.

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