Bat Appreciation Day
Today, April 17, is Bat Appreciation Day!
Across North America many hibernating bat species are coming out of hibernation while migratory species are traveling north and we’ll start seeing them again in the next few months. In the southern United States and in western Canada people may already have seen bats but in most of Canada spring, and with that the return of bats, takes a little longer.
Whether you realize it or not, we all have many reasons to appreciate bats. Whether you like affordable and healthy vegetables and fruits, tequila, fewer mosquitoes and other insect blood parasites, or you are a fan of Batman, all of that is provided to us by bats. Let us explain.
About 70% of all 1,300 bat species around the world, including all 17 Canadian bat species, eat insects. A large proportion of their diets consists of moth species that eat our corn, cotton, apples, and other agricultural crops. Bats help keep these pest insect populations under control, giving us less need to spray crops with pesticides and providing us with healthier food at a more affordable price.
About 20% of all bat species, mostly those living in the tropics and sub-tropics, eat fruits or drink nectar from flowers. These bats provide the ecological service of seed distribution and pollination, very much like some birds and bee species do. Some of these bat species fill a very specific niche and are the primary or sole seed distributors or pollinators. Hence, some forests in the tropics only exist because of bats dropping seeds and pollinating flowers. Not only does this mean that bats give us mango, avocado, banana, and papaya, but also a well known ‘nectar’ known as tequila. Bats are the only animals that pollinate the blue agave from which tequila is made.
A smaller proportion of insectivorous bats’ diets consists of mosquitoes and black flies and thus bats keep populations of these insects under control too. This means that there are fewer insects biting us and drinking our blood. Not only are mosquitoes annoying, they also can carry many diseases that they transmit to us. Thus, bats keep us healthy and decrease the burden on our health care systems everywhere around the world.
If you are fan of Batman, well, obviously Bruce Wayne would have never gotten the inspiration for his super hero alter-ego if it wasn’t for bats. Not unlike Batman, bats are super heroes in their own right. They give us food, they give us drinks, and they keep us and our natural world healthy.
Several bat species in Canada are in serious decline. Bats help us in many ways and we should help them in return.
You can try to increase the number of bats in your area by planting native wild flowers and maintaining healthy fresh water bodies. Wild flowers attract insects (not mosquitoes) which bats like to eat and healthy fresh water for drinking is as important to bats as it is to us. If you own properties with big trees, consider leaving the older trees standing when they decay. Decaying trees provide shelter to bats in which they like to roost. Some bat species like to roost in attics of houses as well. This can be completely fine as long as the bats don’t come in contact with humans and as long as their guano doesn’t build up. Keep bats from harm by knowing how to manage them in buildings or how to have them safely excluded if necessary. If you see any bats, take note of them and check with your provincial or territorial government or local universities if any biologists or wildlife managers in your areas are interested in getting reports of bat sightings, like our CWHC Atlantic centre (see “Got bats” above). All these little things can make big differences to bats.
This summer, when you sit on a patio sipping your Margarita all while not being disturbed by mosquitoes, give a cheers to bats.
Although today is Bat Appreciation Day, we should be appreciative of these wonderful animals every day of the year.