Kids can help bats and their conservation in several different ways: learning more about them, reversing misunderstandings and supporting their futures. What do bats have to do with chocolate, the American Civil War and speed records? Read on to find out!
Bats haven’t always had the best reputation when it comes to kids’ favorite animals. Often portrayed as scary animals with fangs, it’s no wonder that they’re so misunderstood. But if kids knew, for example, that we might not have chocolate if it weren’t for bats… I wonder if they’d feel differently!
Bat Week (October 24-31, 2023) is bringing bats into focus, so let’s pay attention.
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Bats are in decline — threatened by habitat loss and disease — and they could use a few more cheerleaders. Let’s help kids learn more about these fascinating mammals and give kids opportunities to support them.
Here are a few ways that kids can help bats and understand their importance.
5 Ways Kids Can Help Bats
Learn about bats’ importance.
Learning about the role that bats play in our lives give kids all the more reason to want to help them. Here are three reasons why the importance of bats can’t be ignored:
- pollination: Bats are important pollinators Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination! We know the general importance of pollinators, but it might be helpful to find out how it affects us personally. Bats actually help pollinate many of your favorite foods: bananas, mangoes, chocolate (cacao), avocadoes. Can you imagine a world without them?
- seed dispersal: Bats eat fruit and discard the leftovers, which contains seeds. By dropping and dispersing the leftovers/seeds, bats help plants and trees grow. For example: “Fruit-eating bats can account for as much as 95% of the seed dispersal responsible for early growth in recently cleared rainforests.” [US Fish & Wildlife Service] What an incredible statistic!
- insect pest control: Bats eat a lot of insects that can be harmful to us (mosquitoes) and our crops (corn ear moths, spotted cucumber beetles). It’s believed that they’re capable of eating between 50% and 100% of their body weight in insects over the course of one night! And some studies estimate that their help adds up to a savings of over $3 billion for the agricultural industry.
Learn about bats’ special powers.
The more I learn about bats, the more I’m fascinated by them!
- Bats are the only mammals that can fly (though other mammals can glide). And to make it all the more impressive, the Brazilian free-tailed bat can fly as fast as 160 km/h (100 mph) — making it the fastest animal at horizontal flight. [Why “horizontal”? Because peregrine falcons can reach speeds of more than 320 km/h (200 mph) when diving.]
- Their droppings (guano) can be used to make gunpowder. High in nitrogen, phosphate and potassium, guano was used during the American Civil War when gunpowder was in short supply and needed to be sourced locally.
- They each have a unique pattern on their wings, making them each unique (like our fingerprints).
- Bats aren’t blind, contrary to the widely used idiom “blind as a bat”. They actually have very good eyesight, allowing them to see in low-light environments. (Although their vision is neither as sharp nor as colorful as humans’ eyesight.)
- Bats have an incredible sense of hearing, well beyond the human range of hearing. To put it in context: humans can hear frequencies up to about 20 kHz, whereas bats can hear up to 200 kHz (ultrasonic).
- Some species of bats also use echolocation to “see” with their ears — emitting sound waves that bounce of objects in their surroundings and back to them, helping them navigate and find prey.
Clear up misconceptions about bats.
There are many myths and misunderstandings when it comes to bats, so let’s clear up a few of them!
- Bats aren’t vampire-like. In fact, only 3 out of about 1,300 species of bats feed on blood (of birds and livestock), and they don’t attack humans. Bats generally prefer insects, fruit, nectar, pollen and even fish.
- Bats have no intention of getting tangled in your hair. In fact, bats are generally scared of humans and avoid them. And thanks to their echolocation skills, they will know where you are even in the pitch black.
- Bats aren’t super-carriers for rabies. Less than 0.5% of bats carry rabies, which is a much lower percentage than other mammals. That being said, avoid any bat exhibiting unusual behavior (such as being active during the day), and always take precautions if you are ever in contact with a bat.
Build and install bat houses.
With threats to their habitat (thanks to deforestation, etc.), one way to help bats is to build them a “nesting” site. (A nursery for giving birth and rearing their young — they don’t actually build nests.)
Mimicking the space between the bark and the trunk of the tree, bat houses are shallow structures that are hung up high.
Find lots of helpful information – and building plans – here:
According to Bat Conservation International, bat houses should be at least 24″ high and 16″ wide, should not contain fabric or mesh, and should have roosting boards and landing pads made of roughened wood.
Support bat conservation organizations.
There are several different organizations around the world that are fighting for bats and their future. You can support them through:
- adopting a bat (BCI, Lubee, NWF and WWF)
- citizen science (monitoring bats and bat habitats)
There’s no better time to start than TODAY! Bat Week (October 24-31) is bringing bats into focus, so let’s pay attention.
Kids can help bats in big ways and small ways — from correcting myths to building bat houses. By learning more about bats and finding out ways to support bat conservation, we can all play a part in helping these fascinating (and important) flying mammals!
Be a bat cheerleader today!
Don’t miss our Halloween resources that include fun facts about bats and other “spooky” animals.