Ten tips on how to help bats any time of year
Poor bats. This time of year they get trotted out as the iconic Halloween animal, with plastic versions hanging from trees and ceilings. They decorate our Halloween-themed clothing, jewelry, even our party food. But come November 1st, it’ll be back into the metaphorical bat cave as that “creepy” animal that many people generally hope not to come across, and aren’t all that interested in.
And that’s a shame, for SO MANY reasons. Here are just a few:
- Bats make up 25% of all mammal species on Earth. That’s a whole quarter of the world’s mammals that don’t get the attention or help they need because too many people consider them creepy. Not cool.
- Some bats are pollinators, especially in desert and tropical climates. More than 300 species of fruits depend on bats for pollination, including mangoes, bananas and agave (Yes, this means you have bats to thank for your tequila).
- Many bats are insect-eaters; Mother Nature’s master pest controllers. In fact, some species can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour! Others eat the kinds of insects that could harm crops. Scientists estimate bats’ value to the agricultural industry is up to $53 billion per year.
In short, bats are a fascinating and incredibly valuable part of our ecosystems – not something to be afraid of. Unfortunately, they face a lot of threats. Among them are habitat loss, toxins from pesticides, and the deadly white-nose syndrome that has killed millions of bats here in the U.S. So what can we do to help these insect-eating, plant-pollinating, ecosystem superheroes out? Here are some tips for how you can help bats year round – not just around Halloween.
Don’t use pesticides in your garden or around your home. Not only can the toxins in pesticides be dangerous to bats, but they also kill the insects that bats feed on. Find natural solutions to your pest problem, or better yet, leave the bugs for the bats to eat.
Unless they pose a hazard, leave dead or dying trees around your home instead of removing them. Many types of bats prefer these kinds of trees to roost in.
Protect streams and wetlands around your property, and get involved with efforts to protect these ecosystems throughout your region. They often provide valuable habitat for bats, but can only do so if they’re kept healthy.
If you come across a bat on the ground or on an outside wall of your home, don’t automatically assume something is wrong. If the bat is acting erratically, report it to your local wildlife officials, or contact a wildlife rehabber. Here’s a good resource for how to help bats you may come across.
If a bat makes it into your house, there are safe, humane ways to convince them to leave (learn more here). If you prefer to ask a professional for help, be sure to ask them if they use humane methods. Some states have rules in place to better protect bats at certain times of year, so you can also contact your local wildlife or natural resources agency to get specific guidance on dealing with bats in your area.
You can also give a bat a house of its own! Learn how to construct a bat house to place on your property. You’ll give bats a safe place to stay, and a better alternative than trying to find their way into your home.
Let bats get their beauty rest. Disturbing hibernating bats can be very dangerous for them. If you wake them up and frighten them into flying away, they can be forced to use up the fat reserves they need to survive through the winter. Don’t go into mines or caves where you know bats are hibernating. And if you’re not sure whether bats are hibernating there, check with your local wildlife agency first.
It seems obvious, but stay out of caves that have been closed. That’s done for a reason. Agencies close some caves, even on public land, to reduce the risk of spreading white-nose syndrome, which is devastating bat populations across the country. If you do go into an open cave where bats are living, be sure to decontaminate all your clothing and equipment beforehand.
Spread the truth about bats. With more than a thousand species on Earth, there is so much to learn about these animals. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and each one fits into its ecosystem a bit differently. The more people understand about how important bats are, the more support we can gather for protecting them and their habitats.
And finally, support organizations like Defenders that work to protect bats and their habitats. Whether it’s pushing to get them much needed protections, spreading the word about white-nose syndrome, combating threats from Congress, or defending the habitat that these animals need, we’re there.