Do you know who saves the U.S. corn industry more than $1 billion a year in crop damage and pesticide costs? Bats, that’s who. These wonderful creatures have long had a bad reputation. So let’s set the record straight on their immense environmental contributions.
Bats are incredible hunters and use echolocation to hunt insects that feed on crops. They can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour, including those that tend to spread viruses among humans. Their droppings are one of the richest fertilizers, and they’re such effective pollinators that many gardeners plant bat gardens or build bat boxes so they have a cozy place to rest and spread their wealth among the plants.
There are more than a thousand bat species in the world — and 15 of them are in Oregon. More than half of the species in the U.S. are in severe decline or endangered. Loss of habitat and the white-nose syndrome have decimated bats. Another major cause of their endangerment is misinformation about their importance. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service lists several ways you can do your part to help bats, from minimizing the use of pesticides to building those bat boxes in your garden.
Also, I think they’re so fiercely cute. Need convincing? From the aptly named Townsend’s big-eared bat to the fiercely adorable pallid bat, check out this photo series from The Oregonian on your winged neighbors.