Contrary to popular beliefs, the earth would be very different without bats. Aside from being treated as a nuisance by some residences, bats play vital ecological roles. These roles are important in maintaining human economies and the health of natural ecosystems.
With over 1,300 bat species, many are helping humans and natural ecosystems by consuming large amounts of insects. Some of these insects are those causing damages to agricultural products. Other bat species are known to pollinate valuable plants to ensure the continuous production of fruits. Thus, support animal populations and local economies.
In addition, bat droppings that are called as guano are considered as rich natural fertilizers and are valuable in cultivating crops. With these, animals and humans both benefit from the presence of bats in an area.
Vital Roles of Bats in the Environment
Bats play various roles in the environment and some of these are the following:
Often considered as keystone species, bats have vital roles in both desert and tropical ecosystems. It would somehow be difficult to achieve seed-dispersing and pollination without bats. Local ecosystems will collapse gradually as plants will fail in providing cover and food, especially to species near the first phase of the food chain.
Just think of the great baobab tree or the “African Tree of Life” in East African Savannah. The tree is an important part of the survival of various wild species and the tree’s survival depends on bats. This is due to the ability of bats to pollinate. Without this particular ability of bats, it can threaten one of the richest ecosystems on the planet.
On the other hand, agave and giant cacti in North American deserts also depend on bat pollination. Most flowering plants are not able to produce fruits and seeds without the aid of this process. As bats eat the nectar of flowers, they also pick up the pollen dusting and bring it to other flowers as they feed continuously.
Other cultivated and wild flowering and fruit-bearing plants that benefit from bat pollinators are balsa wood, carob, cloves, durian, bananas, and peaches.
Bats that feed on various insects are considered as a great aid in pest control. Most of the insectivorous bat species eat insects that are active at night and also other insects that are damaging to agricultural products. Nursing or pregnant mothers of several bat species are able to consume insects almost their body weight in just one night.
In fact, bats in Mexico and the United States love to target a damaging pest known as corn earthworm moth. This particular pest attacks various commercial plants from watermelons to artichokes. With the presence of bats, it helped in reducing the use of pesticides and crop damage. This means that it does not only help in getting more crops but also reducing the use of pesticides affecting the ecosystem.
There are a lot of rainforests across the globe that are cleared for ranching, logging, agriculture, and other purposes. With the aid of fruit-eating bats, they play an important role in the natural restoration of these forests. They disperse seeds into these ravaged forestlands along with other seed-scattering animals.
Unlike birds that are wary of flying on open spaces and only drop seeds beneath their nests, fruit bats cover vast expanses and large distances. This allows them to scatter more seeds, unlike other animals. Due to this, bats are also popularly called as “farmers of the tropics.”
Produce Natural Fertilizer
Among the reasons to love bats is that they produce a natural fertilizer in the form of bat guano or feces. For centuries, bats’ fecal matter are used as fertilizers mainly because it is packed with nutrients.
It is used worldwide as a natural fertilizer. With responsible mining and with making sure that bat conservation is considered, it is possible to achieve economic improvements for both the landowners as well as the local communities.
In addition, there are also many fish, insects and other animals living in caves that depend on the nutrients from the guano. Thus, making it an essential source of food for other creatures.
It is a natural occurrence in the food chain that there are prey and predators. Bats can fall as preys or a food source for other animals like falcons, owls, and hawks. Thus, keeping the cycle in the food chain of animals in the wild.
Continuous Decline in Bat Population
Despite the efforts for bat conservation, international and local records show that the bat population is continuously declining for various reasons. Some experts are putting the blame on the use of chemicals present in pesticides. This does not only affect the bats that eat the insects exposed to these chemicals but also results in the loss of natural bat houses.
Due to this, the rest of the bat population became more vulnerable to various disease outbreaks in their species. Among the current plagues targeting the bat population is the white-nose syndrome. Bat colonies that are infested with this disease will only have an approximate survival rate of 30%. This largely affects the remaining populations.
Should You Be Worried When Bats are Around Your Home?
Basically, bats are not really aggressive until provoked. Most of the people who got bitten are those who tried to catch them or touched them when they are injured or sick. Similar to any wildlife animals, bats tend to stay away from humans. In fact, they have zero interest in making any interaction with humans and will never fly close to you.So, if you have any bat problems in your property, you can always use DIY traps or other pest control products that will keep them away. In case, a bat or several bats get inside your home, calling for an expert is the ideal solution you should do.