Bats. Their mere mention evokes visions of silent, blood-sucking creatures that haunt the night skies or so the scary movies would have us believe. Centuries of superstition and misinformation have landed the furry, winged mammals with the undeserved reputation of nighttime villain. T’aint so. Overall, bats provide positive benefits to the environment – consuming huge numbers of insects, pollinating plants and dispersing seeds. As long as they’re not roosting under your roof, it’s a good thing to have them flitting about your garden while you sleep.
“Blind as a bat” is one of many misconceptions – all bats can see and many have excellent vision. Their dominant navigational method, like dolphins, is “echolocation” – they travel and hunt at night by sending out beeps and analyzing the echoes that come bouncing back. With this finely honed ability, they can detect obstacles as fine as a human hair in total darkness.
More than two-thirds of bat species consume, with extraordinary appetites, nocturnal insects like moths, gnats, beetles and crickets. A single little brown bat can eat up to a thousand mosquito-sized insects in a single hour while a nursing mother will devour the equivalent of her body weight each night. And imagine this – the bats in Bracken Cave in Central Texas, home to the world’s largest colony (some 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats) emerge at dusk like a river of wings and devour up to 200 tons of insects on a single summer’s night. That’s a lot of natural pest control! For more information on these flying bug eaters, check out Bats: A Gardener’s True Friend.