Why You Should Invite Bats Over for Bats-giving Dinner
It’s the time of year to be thankful for everything in our lives. One thing that everyone should be thankful for is bats! Bats do so much for people that we don’t even know about, so let’s talk about some of the ways bats help people and the environment.
Insectivorous bats are bats that eat insects. Bats eat a variety of species of bugs, including beetles, moths, mosquitoes, ants, grasshoppers, cicadas, flies, wasps, and more. A lot of these bugs are considered pests to humans. Bugs like mosquitos can be harmful to humans by carrying blood borne illnesses or zoonotic diseases. Bugs like beetles, ants, and flies can be harmful to humans by destroying crops and gardens. A single bat can eat hundreds of bugs every evening. They will often hibernate during the winter or migrate to where their preferred prey is active.
All bats in the United States are insectivorous. Bats in the US can save the agricultural industry anywhere from ~$3-53 billion in pest control every year. They do this by eating crop destroying bugs. Here in Florida, popular crops include oranges, tomatoes, peppers, melons, peanuts, hay, corn, potatoes, cucumbers, cotton, beans, cabbage, grapefruit, squash, mushrooms, and sugar cane. Bats protect these crops by eating bugs like aphids, lubber grasshoppers, cucumber beetles, fruit flies, weevils, and moths.
Frugivorous bats are bats that eat fruit. Fruit bat diets depend on their location and what native fruits grow there. In the wild, our fruit bats will eat things like mango, coconut, durian, rambutan, fig, palms, and eucalyptus. They will also eat leaves, flowers, pollen, and bark. Here at Lubee, we feed our bats a diet of apples, pears, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, grapes, cantaloupe, and banana. Because of how they eat, fruit bats are extremely important for the spread of seeds. After a forest fire or other devastating event, fruit bats can be responsible for about 90% of forest regrowth. Certain bat species are crucial to the reproduction of trees or plants in their native environment. For example, the spectacled flying fox alone is responsible for the seed dispersal for over 26 different species of rainforest trees in Australia.
Nectivorous bats are bats that drink nectar and eat pollen. These bats, just like birds, butterflies, and bees, rely on plant nectar for their main source of sugars and pollen for their protein. They have specialized long noses and tongues to get to the nectar. These bats are important pollinators for specific plants, often cactuses and desert flowers. One of the coolest examples is the Greater long-nosed bat. This species is the sole pollinator of the agave plant, which is where we get tequila. Desert plants work with the bats by having adaptations like extremely tall flowers that bats can reach and white flowers that can be easily seen in the dark.
Carnivorous bats are very important for ecosystem balance. They eat small vertebrates, like birds, rodents, frogs, fish, and even other species of bats. Predator-prey relationships are needed to keep an ecosystem healthy. A predator manages prey populations, which in turn, manages resources. Without predators, a prey species can overtake the environment and destroy the vegetation. With predators, a prey species population is regulated and the diversity of vegetation is maintained. While carnivorous bats only eat small prey items, they’re still a valuable member of their ecosystems.
Sanguivorous bats, or vampire bats, are bats that drink blood. There are only three species of vampire bat in the world and these bats survive off of mammal and bird blood. These bats are able to feed on blood easily by producing a natural anticoagulant in their saliva. Anticoagulants prevent blood from clotting by thinning blood. This is very important for humans suffering from thrombotic diseases, or the formation of blood clots in blood vessels that prevent the flow of blood through the circulatory system. They can also be used in medical equipment. The saliva of vampire bats have been used in research for a drug to help stroke patients.
We hope you learned something new about how bats help humans and ecosystems. They are unsung heroes of the animal world, despite their negative perception. This November, be thankful for the bats in your life!
To all our batty friends out there, stay thankful!