It's Bat Week once again, and we're here to go a little bat crazy with you. It's important to understand just how extraordinary they are, and imperative their existence is to human life.
Bats are flying mammals that can reach speeds of 20 to 30 mph. Some of Oregon's species migrate south in winter while some remain here and hibernate. Bats have echolocation which allows them to make high-pitched sounds then listen to the echo of those sounds to locate where objects are. Echolocation helps them find even the smallest insect.
[Image: Little brown myotis, Michael Durham]
North America bats eat insects including moths, beetles, aquatic insects, and flies. One single bat can eat up to its body weight in insects each night. Eating all these insects helps protect our food crops and forests from insect pests, saving farmers and forest managers billions of dollars each year. Insectivorous bats likely save the United States agricultural industry at least $3 billion dollars each year on pest control, or approximately $74 per acre for the average farmer.
Beyond pest control, bats are valuable pollinators and seed dispersers. Some bats pollinate flowering plants, ensuring the production of fruits that support local economies, as well as diverse wildlife populations. Seeds dropped by bats can account for up to 95 percent of the first new growth of recovering forests. Lack of pollination and seed dispersal could adversely affect food security.
[Image: Hoary Bat, Oregon State University-Cascades]
Bats are exceptionally vulnerable to extinction, in part because they are among the slowest reproducing mammals on Earth for their size. Most bat species only give birth to one pup.
A big threat to bats is White-nose Syndrome (WNS), which has killed millions of bats since it was discovered in 2007, decimating populations. WNS is a fungal disease that invades the skin of hibernating bats and disrupts both their hibernation cycles and their hydration. The fungus is transmitted primarily from bat to bat.
How you can help:
Install bat houses in gardens and public spaces.
Help protect and conserve bats’ natural habitats.
Garden organically to reduce pesticide and herbicide use. Bats are helpful in controlling pests, fertilizing and keeping a healthy and beautiful garden.
When exploring caves, follow the proper decontamination protocols and use caution. Try not to disturb bats.
Support research on White-nose Syndrome.
Turn out the lights! Light pollution affects insect populations, disrupts bats as they migrate, and deters sensitive bat species.
[Image: Spotted Bat, Michael Durham]