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Bats have long been one of the animal kingdom’s most feared and misunderstood creatures. Most pop culture associations with them are related to a creepy vampire man seducing women to suck their blood or a witch putting a hex on an undeserving individual.

Although, these associations are complete fallacies, bats do have a well-known dark side as a dangerous disease vector. These flying mammals can carry a number of harmful diseases such as rabies and more recently Ebola, which has led many to wonder why we should even care about them.

Sure, there is good reason to be exceptionally cautious if you come into contact with bats, but for the vast majority of us, high bat populations are extremely beneficial. A wide variety of different bat species have been shown to play a significant role in pest control and in pollination all over the world.

Dominating Pest Control

Many organic farmers have learned about the very real benefits of having bats nearby to help manage the bounty of pests that show up without pesticides. One brown bat – about the size of a human thumb – can consume about 600 mosquitoes and other unwanted insects an hour. They make for a fantastic, almost essential, addition to pest management in any garden.

Even large government organizations have realized the economic benefits of bats. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that bat contributions to pest management save the United States at least $3.7 billion dollars per year. Just by flying around eating their dinner – the insects that eat and damage our crops! Without them, we would most likely experience a distinctive drop in food produced, which would eventually make its way into our weekly grocery bills.

The Surprising Reasons Humans Need BatsTombako the Jaguar/Flickr

Significant Pollination Contribution

As if this wasn’t already enough of an ecosystem service we receive, bats also play a significant role in the pollination of a variety of different plant species. Many of these are preferential to bat pollination, meaning without bats the plant would decrease its ability to produce offspring by at least 50 percent.

A number of plant products consumed by humans fall into this preferential pollination category. Some popular foods include mangoes, bananas, peaches, and guavas. Additionally, the Saguaro cactus (Arizona’s state plant) and the agave plant, which is used to make tequila, are completely dependent on bat pollinators for reproduction.

Record Declines

Unfortunately, bat populations today are plummeting for a number of reasons.

Some scientists have blamed initial declines to high uses of chemicals in pesticides and habitat loss. Pesticides frequently sprayed on crops to help prevent insect consumption don’t always kill the insects immediately. When they are eaten by bats in the hundreds of thousands, small amounts of the pesticide build up and eventually reach levels that kill these small mammals.

These declines have left the remaining bat population more vulnerable to severe impacts of disease outbreaks. One example of this is the current outbreak plaguing bat populations all over the United States. They are at serious risk of destruction as a result of white-nosed syndrome. Colonies infested with the disease have only an average of a 30 percent survival rate.

The Surprising Reasons Humans Need BatsYoTuT/Flickr

A Helping Hand

Luckily, there are a few ways in which we can contribute to improving conditions for bat species worldwide. Perhaps the simplest would be to consider donating to organizations such as Bat Conservation International. Programs such as these use funds to promote scientific research on bats and bat conservation, to educate locals about the importance of bats, and to advocate for policies that ensure the health of bat populations.

Within your own home is it also possible to provide space for these creatures. Adding a bat box to your home garden is a great way to attract them. Not only does building one provide a safe place for local bats to live, but it also benefits you by helping with pest control. It really is a win-win situation.

Bats are major contributors to our society through both pollination and pest control. These assets are in the best interest of both the national and international community to protect and even to promote. Amid significant fears housed by the general public, the fact is we need them more than most of us imagine.

Lead image source: Imgur

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508 comments on “The Surprising Reasons Humans Need Bats”

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Manel Dias
14 Days ago

It is vital to educate the younger generation, especially in schools so that the future generation will be well aware of the IMPORTANCE of the ANIMALS on the Planet earth & how important them to us in return for our own survival....every little creature to the most largest animal ...Matters....for the Planet\'s existence...

15 Days ago

Bats are beautiful and cute, and probably smart. And, they get to fly, even though they\'re mammals! What\'s not to love?

16 Days ago

Agave is an ancient Native American food. When the flowering stalk sprouts at the end of the plant\'s life, it initially carries huge amounts of sugars up the stalk. Because modern human populations are far too excessive, I cannot recommend that anyone not of local native traditions take any - this is a severe problem for decades.
I merely comment because alcohol is, as the researcher who studied its effects on previously functional communities described in her book:
A Poison Stronger Than Love. Don\'t relegated the idea of plants of certain types to this atrocious use. Vast mixed oak and redwood forest systems with unique flora and fauna have been destroyed due to wine, as illustration. The unknown bats of the remnant northern (the rest are lost to urbanization long before the members were ever known) redwood system, appear to migrate with the warm storm air currents. Such are disappearing because of that excess humanity and development upon which they insist.

Muriel Servaege
29 Days ago

I agree with Jeff but I\'ll add I love bats. We\'ve already had tiny bats in the attic and the bathroom and we found them so incredibly cute and so fragile we just wanted to help them.

Jovy Jergens
1 Months Ago

I hope people who have their own houses will step up to construct bat boxes!

Jeff Biss
1 Months Ago

Sure bats benefit us but that\'s not why we should care about them, that\'s because we consider ourselves moral.

Helen Wheels
1 Years Ago

Xa Clay For the love of tequila....considering bats are the sole pollinators of the agave plant, you need to read this ;)

Xa Clay
17 Aug 2016

I'm rushing home to build a bat house RIGHT NOW!!!!

HaNii HA
1 Years Ago



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