The truth about bats

By Christy Leavitt
Director of Partnerships

Each Halloween we see a lot of bat images: menacing black shapes with fangs and outstretched wings, ready to swoop down on you. They can be spotted on everything from wall decorations to paper plates.

Of course, these depictions don't precisely resemble actual bats. But the truth about bats might be even scarier.

Bats, like bees and butterflies, are critically important pollinators. We rely on them to grow 500 kinds of flowers and over 300 kinds of fruit, including mangos, bananas and guavas. They also pollinate a number of fibers and timbers we routinely use. For example, bats in Australia pollinate dry eucalyptus forests, which are shipped globally to use for timber and oils.

But they also face devastating threats. Habitat loss is the primary danger. Here in North America, though, White-nose Syndrome is also a major concern. This wildlife disease targets hibernating bats and its mortality rate is approaching 100 percent. It's killed over 5.7 million bats since it first appeared in 2006.


Not surprisingly, these threats are taking their toll
: out of around 1300 bat species, 954 are threatened, 51 are endangered, and 26 are critically endangered. This is particularly troubling considering that bats have a slow reproduction rate, making population losses extremely difficult to recover from.

It''s clear that bats are in trouble -- and that that's a frightening thought! This Halloween, here are a few fun ways to learn more to these important pollinators:

1. See how bats live on this bat cam: This live stream shows you the daily life of a variety of fruit bats -- you can gain more understanding of these animals as you watch them eat, sleep, and just hang out.

2. Visit a bat viewing site. Get out there and see these critters in their natural habitats! This map can show you where to spot bats near you.

3. Check out this batty art. This past week was Bat Week, a week to celebrate and conserve bats. As part of the week, people created art and posted it on twitter and facebook, using the hashtag #batweekart!

4. Build a bat house. Looking for a concrete way to help our bats? Build them a shelter! Here are some basic instructions that can help even the least handy person build a bat house.