How Bats Are Beneficial To your Garden

Don't let their appearance fool you
Photo by fermate / Getty Images Plus

Talk about a bad rap!  For centuries, the poor bat (Chiroptera) has been trash-talked as a source of rabies and an accomplice in nefarious exploits of the undead. Yet less than 1 percent carry the disease, according to the University of Florida Extension.

And while a subspecies of bat commonly known as the vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) does dine on mammal blood, it doesn’t take enough to harm the cattle and horses it usually feeds on.

Also, it is confined to the tropics of Mexico and Central America and South America — far from the Central European haunts of a certain count of English literature.

 

We have good reasons to cut the bat some slack:

1. Bats fly at night and eat lots of pests, including roaches and mosquitoes. According to Bat Conservation International, a single brown bat can eat more than 1,000 insects in one night.

 

2. Bats also help pollinate plants in many ecosystems. More than 500 plant species, including mango, banana, cocoa, guava and agave, depend on bats to pollinate their flowers.

While bees go for bright, daytime flowers, many of the plants pollinated by bats have large, pale flowers that open at night.

 

3. Habitat for bats, as for many other wild creatures, continues to shrink as humans encroach. Bat habitats need to be warm (they’re mammals); safe from predators; and to have a water source fairly close, so the mother bat doesn’t have to leave her babies for long.

 

4. The National Wildlife Federation has detailed instructions on building a bat house on its website at tinyurl.com/yb4qkudp. Show the bats some love, and they’ll return the favor.

 

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