By Rene Stroud, PCCB Naturalist & Kate Simmons PCCB Community Relations Coordinator
October is here and our thoughts start turning towards the “creepier” creatures. Images of spiders and bats will soon decorate homes and shops. Although, bats get a bad rap from stories of vampires and rabies (although less than 10 people in the last 50 year have contracted rabies from a bat in the U.S), they are an important species and that is why we are celebrating them this October during Bat Appreciation Month.
Iowa is home to 9 species of bats, all of which eat insects. The most commonly spotted species are the little brown bat, big brown bat, red bat, hoary bat and the silver-haired bat. Less common bats are the Indiana bat, easter pipistrelle, evening bat & the keen’s myotis.
Here are 5 fun facts about these fascinating and important creatures.
1. Bats are vulnerable; they have very slow reproduction rates. Females usually give birth to one pup. There are only a handful of species like the hoary bat that regularly give birth to twins. Mom bats cannot give birth to many babies because their babies are huge! They are nearly 1/3rd the weight of the mom. That is like a person giving birth to a 40-pound infant!
Hoary Bat, Photo by Daniel Neal [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
2. Bats are the only mammal that can fly! You may have heard of flying squirrels, while they are mammals their “flight” is in fact a glide. Think of it as falling gracefully instead of flying.
Little Brown Bat, via USFWS
3. They EAT mosquitoes! A hungry brown bat can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in 1 hour.
Big Brown Bat, via USFWS
4. Who needs Batman when bats already have so many superpowers! Please check out this infographic from Bat Conservation International.
5. Bats generate billions of dollars in ecological services. In fact, before Texas was known for oil it was once known for bat guano. Guano is a wonderful fertilizer and used to be Texas’s largest mineral export. Check out these infographics from Bat Conservation International for more reasons why bats matter.
Bats might be strange, and they may make you nervous but remember they are an important part of our ecosystem and valuable partners for humans in this world. When you see their silhouettes or weird looking faces in fall the décor we hope that it reminds you that these vulnerable creatures are also awesomely unique and important. For more information or to support bats check out these faces on this video: http://www.batcon.org/why-bats/bats-are/bats-are-cool and visit the www.batcon.org website.