I’m going to come right out and say it: bats are awesome. They are one of my favorite animals, and as I learned more and more about them, the more and more I was impressed by their complexity. This post will talk about why bats are beneficial and how you can get them to your yard.
Bats are great for the environment in a myriad of ways. The first is that they keep insect populations in check. A single bat can eat on average 1,000 insects in an hour. IN ONE HOUR. Some bats can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, and while in Charleston, we see only the benefit of having less bug bites, in Malaria ridden areas, bats can actually cut down on the disease by consuming that many mosquitoes.One great thing about bats is that they are usually in colonies and those colonies can be anywhere from 20 to 200 to 2,000 to, like in Austin, Texas, 20,000,000. That means that every bat in that colonies eats roughly 1,000 insects in an hour. And they hunt for several hours every night. So, depending on the size of the colony, one colony could consume upwards of 120,000 insects in one night (and that is actually a lower estimate). Incredible!
The second way bats can be great for the environment is that some species are actually pollinators! When the word “pollinator” is thrown around, most people think butterflies and bees, but usually never bats. That is another neat aspect about them! Some species are just herbivores and pollinate overnight which helps the ecosystem continue forward (especially in the face of the dwindling bumble bee populations). These pollinators are more common in Central and South America, so they play a fairly crucial role in the production of fruits and nuts we love to import. The next time you eat a banana or munch on some cashews, thank a bat.
The last attribute to the ecosystem that bats make is, grossly enough, their waste. Bat feces, or guano, is amazingly rich in nitrogen and enzymes. Guano has actually been fought over because of its value. Fun fact: guano actually extended the Civil War for a little while because the Confederacy ran out of gunpowder towards the end of the War. They started to make gunpowder and explosives out of guano! Another fun fact (I’m really nerding out now) was that the U.S. actually annexed islands in the Pacific for the sole purpose of guano in the late 19h and early 20h century. Anyway, guano is a great fertilizer and can make a garden grow great.
So you want them in your yard now, right? The two big hesitations to bats that most people have are not likely at all actually. The first hesitation is that people fear that bats will get caught in their hair. This will probably never happen to you. Bats are amazing pilots and can navigate through the air better than some birds. They can also see amazingly. The second hesitation, cue the creepy organ music and fog machines, is that they will suck your blood! The won’t happen in Charleston. It won’t happen anywhere in the U.S. Vampire bats only live in Central and South America. But, just for fun, lets imagine we’re in Brazil right now. We still shouldn’t sweat over bats because Vampire bats typically only feed cows and hardly ever on humans. They also rarely kill anything. They only need a little bit of blood to sustain themselves. So, don’t worry about your hair and don’t worry about your blood. You’re fine.
You can get a bat house to draw this critters in, and that is usually the only thing that we can do. Bats usually like larger bodies of water nearby (so they can drink water but also because bugs are typically there). The last thing you can do to help them is to not spray insecticides. You shouldn’t do this anyway because it effects the ecosystem in a major way, and bats are included in that effect! So look into getting a bat house, stay away from insecticides, and have a happy Halloween!
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