Don’t have much love for bats? You might by the time you finish reading this

Bats aren’t seen through the most positive lens—they are often feared and are considered dirty. But these nocturnal mammals actually do a lot of good work for our ecosystem and don’t receive enough recognition for it. So we're here to set the record straight.

Bats control pest populations

Bats spend their evenings eating nocturnal insects, which include many agricultural pests. As insects’ primary predators, bats play a significant role in controlling these populations (and studies show that some bats eat more than 70 percent of their weight in insects each night). Seeing bats around your home means fewer pests in the garden and fewer mosquitos biting you on those late nights or early mornings outside.

Bats reduce our need for chemical fertilizers

It’s estimated that with a large number of bats in a specific area, farmers can save thousands on insecticides each year. This also saves the soil and eliminates the environmental damage caused by these sprays. Unfortunately, the use of these sprays in conventional agriculture—and even in recreational lawn and garden use—has affected bat populations. As they ingest insects that have been sprayed, the toxins are transmitted to bats as well, explaining in part their population decline. The less we spray, the more our natural pest control friends can do their jobs again.fruit batPhoto by Steven Mc Leod on Unsplash

Bats are reforesters

Just like birds, bats are notorious seed-dispersers. When fruit bats consume and digest fruits, they’ll often carry the seeds inside of them without breaking them down, and then excrete the seeds in a different location. Since the seeds are already coated in a natural fertilizer, they have an easy time sprouting and establishing. This is especially helpful in areas where trees have been clearcut, as it aids in the regrowth of forests and increases habitat for other wildlife.

Bats are also pollinators

We often hear calls to “protect the pollinators”—but while bees, butterflies and birds are specifically mentioned, bats often get left out. Did you know that more than 500 species of plants rely on bats to have their flowers pollinated? This includes tropical fruits and nuts like bananas, peaches, almonds, cashew nuts, vanilla, mango, guava and agave. The bats also rely on these plants to survive as they feed on both the fruits and the flowers—but without the bats, we wouldn’t have some of our favourite fruits.

Bats are a biodiversity indicator

Bats are known to occupy a range of habitats—from wetlands, farmlands, woodlands and, of course, our urban environments as well. As long as there is food for them to eat and shelter to inhabit, bats will stick around—but with deforestation and urban sprawl, their populations are continuously at risk. They are very sensitive to changes that occur in land-use practices, which means that their activity (or lack thereof) can tell us a lot about the state of the environment. Bats are an essential part of general native wildlife and drastic changes in their population or occupation is relevant to other wildlife species, and can help shed light on environmental imbalances.

See? Bats aren’t pests. They’re pest-controllers, seed-spreaders and indicators of environmental imbalances. Now that you know a little bit more about the benefit of bats for our ecosystem, increase awareness by spreading knowledge and appreciation for this friend of the environment.