From tales of vampires to being some of the world’s most infamous “blood sucking” creatures of the night, many pollinators (like bats and honeybees) get a bad rap. October 1 officially marks the beginning of Bat Appreciation Month—and we have some Discovery Zoo residents that want you to know a little more about how important they are!
“October might be the spookiest month of the year, but we promise we aren’t scary—we’re helpful!”
Bats are actually really helpful to ecosystems and humans! With more than 1,300 species of bats around the world, they all play a big role in terms of eating pesky agricultural pests, pollinating plants, and ensuring the growth of fruits and veggies that feed people across the world and support local economies.
“We’re not blind, in fact we have better direction than you!”
Bats may live in dark places, but that doesn’t make them blind. Actually, in some cases, bats can see better than humans. People get nervous when they see bats flying around because the notion that, if they are in fact, blind—they might bump into you by accident. False! Bats have incredible sensory abilities, including echolocation, which allows them to use sound waves to locate objects, kind of like sonar.
“Who is Dracula anyway? We’re not the blood suckers you think we are.”
While vampire bats do exists, they aren’t as scary as you think. Vampire bats weigh only two ounces, and average only three inches in length, meaning they are tiny. While it’s true that vampire bats have been known to bite people in Central and South America, they mostly feed on cattle.
Imagine an overgrown mosquito—vampire bats are the same way! They only lick about a spoons worth of blood and can accomplish this task quickly because they have an anti-clotting enzyme in their blood, much like a leech.
“Even our poo is awesome!”
Bat poop, commonly referred to as “guano”, is a valued fertilizer. When collected responsibly (with no harm made to the bats or their environment), guano can be used by local landowners and communities to enrich their soil. This means better crops, which means more people are fed and local economies thrive.
“Give us a break, we’re helping to put food on your table!”
Bats are both seed dispersers and pollinators, making them integral to the ecosystems they inhabit and the economy. Bats around the world pollinate things from agave and bananas to cloves, carob, and peaches. Fruit-eating bats also disperse seeds to vital places, including cleared out rainforests—where regeneration of plants is vital. You can thank bats for things like avocado, dates, figs, cashews, and much more.
As you can tell, the Museum is pretty serious about our pollinators, from our newest exhibit featuring live honeybees to our friends the Egyptian fruit bats. Each of these special creatures plays a vital role in the world and unfortunately, due to dangerous pesticides and climate changes, our pollinator populations are dwindling.
So, next time you see a bee hive think twice about hurting its residents! After all, honeybees are directly responsible for one out of every three bits of food you eat! During the Halloween season when you see a “spooky” bat you can bust some bat myths and tell all your friends how important bats are to the ecosystem.
Be sure to visit our popular pollinators any day of the week in the Mead Westvaco Treehouse and the Discovery Zoo during normal hours of operation!