Flying silently through the night, one misunderstood mammal is hard at work bringing us our favorite fruits, like peaches and bananas, and keeping pests and mosquitos at bay all while we’re sleeping! But who is this mysterious do-gooder? And why haven’t we heard of them before? Well, my friend, you have—but you two weren’t introduced like this!
Turns out, there’s a lot that most of us don’t know about the ways bats make our lives a whole lot sweeter. And there are easy ways that we can help them, too!
Do you hate mosquitos but love tequila? Then get ready to meet your new favorite animal!
With over 1,200 species of all shapes and sizes living around the world—from megabats with wingspans over 5 feet to the smallest of the microbats like Kitti’s Hog-nosed Bat (“the Bumblebee Bat”) who rings in as the smallest mammal in the world at about 1 inch by length—bats are perfectly primed to fill all sorts of roles in our ecosystems.
Under the stealth of night, they work to keep our world in order. A single bat eats over 1,000 insects every night, and colonies munch on over 50,000 1. They’re also the sole pollinators for entire species of plants—including the agave plant tequila is made from. From pest control to pollination, they’re the silent heroes in our lives. But most of us don’t know anything about them, and some of us are even afraid of them!
Luckily, we have creators like those behind this fantastic short video from TED-Ed to introduce us to this fascinating group of animals! Take a peek into the protectors that come out while you’re sleeping.
How amazing are they?! It’s no surprise that this unique and diverse family of mammals is inspiring so much innovation in the medical and tech fields. There’s still so much that we can learn from them! For example, TED-Ed recently came out with an amazing video about how bats don’t get sick. It’s a fascinating look at how a mammal so closely related to us can have an immune system so different, and how we can learn from them to help ourselves fend off disease in the future. Watch it here!
How we can be their daytime heroes
Bats, like most other animals, are facing a lot of threats right now. From losing their habitats and food sources from human developments and pesticides to dealing with a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome that wakes up hibernating bats in the middle of winter without a food supply, they’re reaching a point where they need our help.
Something that you and I can do to help make life easier for the bats in our area is to set up bat boxes. They’re kind of like birdhouses but, well, for bats. Bats need a space to rest for the day so that they can get out at night and munch on all of the mosquitos and bugs. Natural bug repellent right in your backyard—wouldn’t that be nice?
You can place them on the side of your house, garage, or other structures where the box will get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Here are some handy instructions on where to place your bat box! Creators on Etsy have a huge selection of pre-made bat boxes to choose from for under $40. Or if you’d like to try your hand at making one yourself, check out this step-by-step guide.
Other ways that we can help our bat friends is by advocating to stop pesticide use—including avoiding using pesticides on your own lawn and garden—and to just leave them alone!
Bats are super cute and I know we all want to hold it and give it a pat, but instead, if you come across a bat, get in touch with a local rescue or contact your state’s wildlife agency or Department of Natural Resources. 3
Teaming up with nature!
One of my favorite things to see when looking for content to celebrate here on EWC are the hidden relationships that make our world work. There are just so many problems that we humans fuss around with, trying to come up with our own man-made solutions for that nature has already solved.
Whether you’re a farmer with a slug problem, a pilot trying to take off safely, a surgeon working to have better success rates, or a city that wants to protect itself, try taking a step back and noticing the systems already in play around you. Where else has this problem already been solved? Most likely, you’ll find a solution in nature.
Taking the time to learn about the lesser appreciated creatures on this planet has a ripple effect of benefits. For the average person, it helps us preserve these creatures’ homes and lives. For researchers, scientists, and farmers, turning to nature can inspire innovation. And, of course, for any one of us, seeing the world in all of its complexity helps us find more awe and joy in our daily lives—you’ll never be able to sip your favorite margarita again without little cheers to a bat!
Our goal isn’t to save just the species that can directly improve our lives. The goal is to keep our planet as diverse and fascinating as she naturally is, for that’s where the real amazement, wonder, and progress come in!
Meet some of the “strange” organisms we’re learning from now, who are helping to solve big problems like climate change and plastic pollution in these next articles!
So, what will be your favorite fun fact to tell your friends the next time you see a bat?
Will it be when you’re buying bananas? Sitting outside being swarmed with mosquitos? Or maybe, you can tell them that there are bats out there who are the size of a small dog when you see a pug next.
Who knows, your excitement about them could snowball into more protection and love for these very misunderstood neighborhood heroes.
As always, stay open to new possibilities!
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- Bats Live. “Calculate the Value of Bats.”https://batslive.pwnet.org/edubat/final_calculate_the_value_of_bats.pdf ↩
- TED-Ed. “The Truth about Bats – Amy Wray.” YouTube, 16 Dec. 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8wLQ3NCBgg. Accessed 12 Apr. 2021. ↩
- “Found an Injured Bat? – Bat Conservation International.” Bat Conservation International, 14 Aug. 2020, www.batcon.org/about-bats/found-an-injured-bat/. Accessed 12 Apr. 2021. ↩