In less than 24 hours it will officially be Bat Week, an international, annual celebration designed to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation.
Bats are amazing creatures that are vital to the health of our natural world and economy. Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each and every night, eating tons of insects, pollinating flowers and spreading seeds that can grow new plants and trees.
Called creepy, scary, and spooky, we think bats get a bad rap, so we want to set the record straight so you can show your love to bats, every week. Thanks to all things 'Internet', we can all come to a new appreciation about the bats in our watershed and how important they are to our local ecosystems. So, don’t go batty this week, give your local bat a thumbs-up!
Here are 10 interesting facts about bats to help you celebrate them at this 'spooktacular' time of the year:
Bats are the only mammal that can actually fly. Their forelimbs have actually adapted as wings, so they can catch their prey while they fly.
There are eight bat species in Ontario. Check out Ontario Nature’s Bat Guide for Ontario.
The biggest threat to bats is a disease called White-Nose Syndrome, named for a white fungus on the muzzle and wings of bats during hibernation.
Do bats migrate or hibernate? Well they do both, just not at the same time, and different species opt for a one-or-the-other strategy. Some bat species migrate to find warmth and food in places south. For those that want to stay put, they hibernate, often in colonies or large groups in caves or other cavernous spaces. They lose a large percentage of their body weight during hibernation, making them extremely attentive and efficient predators when they emerge in spring because they are literally starving.
It’s not great to have bats living in your home as they can deposit large amounts of guano—that is the fancy word for poop used by scientists. It stinks and can be harmful from a respiratory perspective. The best approach is to remove the bats through exclusion, which involves covering the openings the bats use to enter with netting or tubes. The bats drop down and fly out but are unable to crawl back in again. You want to do this in late summer or early spring before the female bats give birth to their pups that cannot fly for several weeks.
The largest bat in Ontario is the Hoary Bat, which is smaller than a chipmunk, but with a wingspan of 34 to 42 centimetres, that is 14 to 17 inches for you 'boomers'. Now that’s a big bat!
Bats do not belong to the rodent family nor are they related to mice and rats, but rather part of the order Chiropera (pronounced kai-raap-tr-uh). This order is second only to order Rodentia (the rodent order) in number of species.
Female bats share mates with relatives, but without close inbreeding. Scientists believe that such close family ties encourage cooperation, such as food sharing in bat species that form nurseries and colonies.
The average lifespan of a bat can be more than 20 years. The world record is held by a tiny bat from Siberia, which set the records at 41 years.
Without bats, say goodbye to avocados, mangoes and bananas. Bats also help spread the seeds for nut, fig and cacao trees—the latter you likely already know is the main ingredient in chocolate. Without bats, we would not have plants like agave, which is where tequila comes from. Now that got your attention!
Next week we will post some ideas for how you can help bats in our watershed and we will be calling you on our bat phone. Just kidding. Look to our Facebook postings and happy Bat Week!
Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer), a Latin GRAMMY musician, author, and educator, has just launched a great song about bats: Bats on the Brink. Check it out!