Bats need our help. And they deserve it. These flying mammals have done so much for us and for the earth that it’s time we showed them some appreciation!
Unfortunately, bat populations are in real danger. Pressured by human encroachment into their territories, by hunting and by disease – hundreds of species of bats are at risk. In the US alone, 80% of indigenous insect eating bats have died from white-nose disease (WND) – a fungus introduced from Eurasia. The National Wildlife Health Center is monitoring this devastating fungal infection, as it rapidly advanced from the northeast to as far south as Mississippi and as far west as Oklahoma (WND has also been confirmed in Washington State).
• White nose syndrome is still sickening bats in Europe and Asia.
Caused by Pseudogymnoascus destructans, the fungus infiltrates the bodies of hibernating bats. The fungus irritates the skin of the animals causing them to wake from their hibernations. As the infection takes holds, breaks in a bat’s skin lead to debilitation and dehydration. The animals are forced to wake from hibernation and seek food – this added stress ultimately weakens and kills them. Most bats that have succumbed to WND are emaciated.
Bats (over 1300 species) are integral to sustaining ecosystems throughout much of the world. There may not be bats in Antarctica, but from the tropics to the temperate zones, bats have an impressive appetite for insects... and that’s not all. Fruit bats help to spread plants and trees. As they consume the fruit, seeds and all, they fly away to “drop” off these seeds to establish new plant colonies. Other bat species assist in pollinating flowers that then mature to provide food for other animals and local communities.
In the US alone, bats serve to keep crop damage at a minimum by consuming insect pests. This not only provides balance, but it helps organic farmers to maintain production levels and it reduces the use of pesticides for conventional growers.
“The true ecological consequences of large-scale population reductions currently under way among hibernating bats are not yet known. However, farmers might feel the impact. In temperate regions, bats are primary consumers of insects, and a recent economic analysis indicated that insect suppression services (ecosystem services) provided by bats to U.S. agriculture is valued between 4 to 50 billion dollars per year.”
Brave Bats: Deforestation is a worldwide threat. Clear-cutting and burning are decimating rainforests and tropical zones so critical to facilitating the earth’s ability to maintain balance. Reforesting these areas is not easy. Birds are often reluctant to journey over the vast waste areas and few mammals will venture out of the dense canopy. So…it’s up to the bats to do the job! Almost 100% of pioneer plantings is jumpstarted by bats. These hardy seedlings get the ball rolling as they create new habitat for mammals and birds to enter, and as they rebuild shade for the diverse greenery that flourishes under rainforest canopies.
Few people think of bats when they view some of the richest and diverse natural realms. Celebrity mammals, like lions wolves and zebra take center stage – but much of the “landscaping” and maintenance of these wildlife areas is handled by bats.
A few plants rely on bats for propagation, such as the Baobab, mango, guava and banana. In the desert regions of the US and Mexico, lesser long-nosed and Mexican long- tongued bats pollinate the agave plant (renowned for its syrup and for tequila). Both of these nectar eating bats travel thousands of miles to gather food throughout Mexico and the American Southwest — and both are on the endangered species list.
According to Bat Conservation International, “Bats are often considered ‘keystone species’ that are essential to some tropical and desert ecosystems. Without bats’ pollination and seed-dispersing services, local ecosystems could gradually collapse as plants fail to provide food and cover for wildlife species near the base of the food chain.”
What to get involved? Check out these sites to see whats going on in your area.
So let’s get batty for bats! Tasty Worms thanks you for helping to tell others about our beautiful bats.
Learn more about Tasty Worms , City Bats Conservancy and our bat rehabilitation mission. Your purchase helps these amazing animals. Thank you!