A California leaf-nose bat captures a cricket. (Copyright photo used with permission/Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International, www.batcon.org)
As Halloween approaches, it is easy to get caught up in the mystery and fear that surround bats, but the truth about bats is that they are fascinating animals vital for a healthy environment and economy.
As we celebrate National Bat Week, set your concerns aside. We need bats, and bats need us – now more than ever.
Bats occupy almost every habitat in the world. They devour tons of insects nightly, pollinate flowers, and spread seeds that grow new plants and trees. They are our most important natural predators of night-flying insects, consuming mosquitoes, moths, beetles, crickets, leafhoppers and chinch bugs, among others. Many of these insects are serious crop or forests pests, while others spread disease to humans or livestock. Every year, bats save us billions of dollars in pest control by simply eating insects. Read more »
Unplug is a public service campaign of the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council.
Summer is fast approaching but packing up the kids to head outside could be daunting, especially for those whose experience with outdoor activities is limited.
But don’t worry. With a little help and some simple planning, the whole crew will want to unplug and find activities that will invigorate not just the body, but the mind. The opportunities to show our kids how to eat healthy and be active can stay with them for a life time. Young children and the young at heart will enjoy summer days filled with picnics and outdoor barbecues that create great memories. Read more »
Roosting under leaf litter has shown to keep eastern red bats warm during the winter. (Creative Commons/Anita Gould)
When winter weather arrives, most bats hibernate in caves, but a few species migrate to warmer areas. Warmer being relative, the migrating bats may still end up in places that are too cold for comfort, and sometimes hibernate under leaf litter for short periods of time.
Roger Perry, a wildlife biologist at the U.S. Forest Service’s Southern Research Station, studied these temporary hibernation sites to find out how much protection they offered bats, and how much energy bats expend to stay alive.
The leaf litter study took place in and around the Alum Creek Experimental Forest of the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas, and focuses on eastern red bats, a migratory species that remains active through most of the winter. When winter temperatures are not too cold the bats roost in trees, but when temperatures plunge, the bats temporarily hibernate underneath leaf litter. Read more »
Little brown bats, like these found in a cave in Maine in 2013, are increasingly being found with white-nose syndrome. The U.S. Forest Service is researching many angles to help wildlife managers and the public to combat the disease. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
Take a moment to look at the night sky and watch the swift flight of bats on their daily mission as they dart through your backyard or forest. Now, think about how it’s becoming harder to spot these winged wonders, and ask why. The answer: The quickly growing spread of a disease known as white-nose syndrome has been decimating bat populations, as explained in a recently released film on the subject.
This increasingly devastating disease has killed more than six million bats in just six years, a serious problem for a creature that provides so many benefits to the environment – as both a plant pollinator and as a major predator in keeping insect populations in check. Read more »
Bats like this northern long-eared bat are important to agricultural and forest ecosystems and are a significant force in keeping insect populations in check. (U.S. Forest Service/Sybill Amelon)
Sybill Amelon is trying to repair the damage Bram Stoker did to bats’ public image.
A research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in Columbia, Mo., Amelon has introduced bats to more than 20,000 primary, secondary and college students and teachers. Over the past 20 years, she has explained bat biology and lifecycles to master naturalist classes, Audubon clubs, garden clubs and native plant societies. Through her research and conservation efforts, she has raised awareness about bat species, while inspiring people to save them.
Amelon’s work was recently recognized with a regional Gifford Pinchot Excellence in Interpretation and Conservation Education Award, a national accolade given to Forest Service employees for achievement in environmental interpretation and conservation education. The annual award is named in honor of the first Forest Service chief. Read more »
Indiana bats, such as this one, are part of a monitoring program on the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. The bats are fitted with a radio transmitter and tracked to roosting locations throughout the life of the transmitter. (U.S. Forest Service)
Synonymous with a superhero signal in the sky and silhouettes hanging upside down in a darkened cave, bats inspire a long-standing fascination, and with good reason: Bats are vital to healthy ecosystems and human economies world-wide.
With Halloween upon us and many people believing bats are creepy, the U.S. Forest Service wants to raise awareness about these mysterious and often misunderstood animals. For example, bats consume up to their body weight in insects every night, including agricultural and forest pests, thus reducing the need for chemical pesticides.
Almost a third of the world’s 1,200 species of bats feed on the fruit or nectar of plants. In return for their meals, these bats are vital pollinators of countless plants and essential seed dispersers with a major role in regenerating rainforests. Read more »