I’ve been an animal lover as long as I can remember – long before I enjoyed kids. Dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles, dolphins, fish – pretty much any animal, domestic or wild, I wanted to be friends with and enjoy. When we moved to Florida when I was in kindergarten, my parents toyed with the idea of building a bat house. I sat wide eyed and grinning as my parents explained that a bat house was like a bee house but for bats, and that they were important because of how ecologically important bats are. We didn’t build one, but I’ve wanted one ever since, and have been doing LOTS of research to convince my husband this is absolutely something we totally need. So in honor of International Bat Appreciation Day, I give you my strongest arguments as to why bats are awesome, and how you can help your local sky puppies (including resources on building a bat house).
First, let’s start with some fun, entertaining facts on just how awesome bats are.
● Researchers at University of Tennessee found out that the Mexican free-tailed bat can reach speeds of up to 100 mph – which makes it the fastest mammal on earth. Many other varieties fly at 60mph. They’re also the only flying mammals.
● Hate mosquitos? Me too – I’m allergic. Most varieties of bats eat mosquitos, and can eat up to 1,200 mosquitos an hour. Natural pest control! It also means that bats often have sparkly poop due to the chitin in the exoskeletons of the bugs they eat.
● More than half the bat species in the US are in severe decline or listed as endangered. Loss of habitat and white nose syndrome (a fungus that targets the wings and muzzle of bats) are the two main culprits.
● Guano, the lovely term for bat droppings, are one of the richest fertilizers in existence.
● If you like fruit, you have bats to thank as well as bees. Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination, including avocados, bananas, chocolate, figs, and mangoes. So basically, you have chocolate because of bats.
● Bats are super hygienic. They actually clean themselves like cats!
● People have long said that bats carry rabies. While they can, it’s pretty rare. It’s estimated only about 6% of bats carry rabies. Still, if you come in contact with a bat and think you’ve been bitten, or aren’t totally positive if you were or not, it’s a good idea to call your county health department and see if you need treatment, just like if you touched any other wild animal. If you’re in the same room as a bat and it hasn’t touched you, you’re just fine.
Okay, okay, I know. Bats are basically the coolest. But now you’re probably thinking “but how cute are they?” Oh, friend. They’re some of the cutest little buggers on the face of the planet and will make the burliest, strongest man squee with delight. Need proof? Here!
These are Honduran White Bats, and if you think they look like little cotton balls you’d be 100% correct. They only eat a certain type of fig and live on the underside of broad leaves. I want to snuggle ALL of them.
The Desert Long-Eared Bat looks like a puppy that never grew into it’s ears, so basically I’m obsessed. It also eats scorpions – even venomous ones – so desert dwellers wanting to keep their yards safe should definitely consider building a bat house!
Bats Queensland is a volunteer organization that helps microbats and flying foxes in Australia and LOOK AT THIS BABY EATING FROM A SYRINGE! I can’t handle this much cute!
Here’s a myotis bat getting a checkup and…oh gods. His tiny wings! His widdle feets! And then he got to go back home into the wild!! Bristol Bat Rescue, I adore you.
And for the clincher: a bat eating a nanner. Batzilla is a bat rescue channel, and there are dozens of videos where you can see the rehab process for bats – including lots and lots of noms.
So now that you’re convinced of their sheer adorableness and brilliance, you’re probably chomping at the bit to help them out – because seriously, how can you not after looking at that cuteness? (Oh, and if you’re scared of rabies, no worries – having a bat house actually decreases your chances of direct exposure to bats because instead of going in your home to roost, they have a cozy home of their own!) Here are some resources that can help you out.
The National Wildlife Federation has a fun write-up on how to build a bat house that includes tips, tricks, and fun commentary.
Bat Conservation International also has a really helpful guide in helping you figure out if a bat house is right for you and the best place to put one, as well as how to get bats out of your house and into their new home.
Massachusetts also has a bat-house building guide with some extra things to keep in mind – like keeping the wood inside the bat house rough so the bats can cling to it.
Bats won’t come if you don’t have food for them, and that usually means things that attract insects! So plant all the lovely smelling flowers and herbs you like. Gardening Know How and the University of Minnesota both also have great guides on gardening with bats in mind. Evening primrose, datura, goldenrod, and any flowers that bloom at night are bound to be a hit.
Another good thing to do is to google any bat rescues or rescuers in your area. If Google isn’t helping, call your local shelters and animal services, or even your local vets. That way if you do see an injured bat or come in contact with one, you can know immediately who to contact for help.