Saturday, March 04, 2023


 By Caroline Clemmons

See how I tricked you into reading about one of my favorite animals, bats. No, don’t stop reading, please! You’ll be so glad you did if you continue to the end. Bat populations are declining worldwide, mostly due to myths and misconceptions. Over half the bats in the US are listed as rare, threatened, or endangered.

Brown Bat

A couple of years ago, Darling Daughter 2 and I attended a seminar on bats at Weston Gardens in Fort Worth. Dottie Hyatt, Vice-President of Bat World in Mineral Wells, Texas ( ) brought bats and lots of information. Darling Daughter and I learned so much cool stuff that I’m going to share some of it with you.

1. Bats are an integral part of most ecosystems, yet they are the most misunderstood animal on earth. Only through education can we change ecological devastation going forward. Bats are the greatest pesticide available to mankind.

There are over 1100 species of bats in the world and only three are vampire bats, limited for the most part to Latin America. Vampire bats are very small and do NOT attack humans. They prefer to get their teaspoon sized meals from other animals.  The remaining 1097 bat species eat insects, fruit, nectar, and pollen. A few species eat fish and frogs. Insect-eating bats eat billions of tons of insects each summer. They protect our crops and keep costs down at the marketplace. Fruit bats bring us over 450 commercial products and 80 medicines through pollination and seed dispersal. Over 95% of rainforest regrowth comes from seeds that have been spread by fruit bats.

2. Bats don’t carry rabies. They are capable of catching the disease just like any other mammal. In reality, more people die annually from contact with household pets than have died with contact from bats in all of recorded history. Misconceptions about bats are due in part to Hallowe’en lore that presents them as scary, blood-sucking creatures that carry rabies. In fact, less than one-half of one percent of bats contract rabies. This doesn’t mean it’s okay to touch or handle bats. They may be afraid and bite in self-defense. Bats are wild animals and all wild animals can be dangerous. Grounded bats are more likely to be sick and should never be rescued bare-handed.


3. One bat can eat up to 5,000 mosquitoes in a 24-hour period. The little animals are very vulnerable to chemicals, however. If you spray for mosquitoes and other insects, you are likely to also kill bats and prevent them from acting as living pesticide and pollinators.

4. Bats are very clean. They spend enormous amounts of time grooming, much like cats do.  They are intelligent and have a sense of humor. Antonia Lollar, who founded Bat World, has had them play tricks on her that would astound everyone. Ms Lollar says “They’re the least appreciated mammal on the face of the earth.”

 5. Bats are not flying mice. They are not even remotely related to rodents. In fact, they are built more like a human, and their wing bones are like those of a hand and arm. They are so unique that scientists placed them in a group of their own, Chiroptera, which means hand-wing.

6. Bats are not blind. Most bats see as well as humans. Fruit bats also have eyesight adapted to low light, much like cats, and may see in color. Many bats also use echolocation to catch insects and fly at night.

7. Bats are shy, gentle, and highly intelligent. They are among the slowest reproducing animals on earth. Most bat species have only one live young per year.  The average life span of a bat is 25 to 40 years!

 8.  Bat feces, called guano, is the richest fertilizer available. So rich, that it must be diluted when used.

When Hero and I lived in a rural area and had a peach orchard, I chanced upon several fruit bats hanging in trees while we were harvesting peaches. The little bats are so sweet and their fur is very soft. I hate that they are villified and are endangered.

Fruit Bat

In 1994, Amanda Lollar founded Bat World Sanctuary, the organization’s first sanctuary for non-releasable bats. Hundreds of bats from around the world have found permanent refuge at this indoor, natural habitat facility. These non-releasable bats include those that have been used in research, retired from zoos, orphaned, permanently injured or confiscated from the exotic pet trade. Bat World is located in Mineral Wells, Texas and serves as headquarters for the organization. Aside from this facility, Bat World has established rescue centers across the US. Bat World Sanctuary has been featured on television programs on the Discovery Channel, 20/20 Downtown, Animal Planet, Nickelodeon, the CBS Early Show and Late Night with David Letterman.

Instructions for building a bat box are available online from the National Wildlife Federation or you can purchase one already built from Weston Gardens or a garden center near you. They must be mounted at least ten feet from the ground to give the residents time to swoop. Bats don’t take off from the ground, but drop to begin their flight.

I wanted to share my fondness for these gentle animals. I hope you enjoyed the post.

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