Monday, January 28, 2013

Bats: The Other Pollinators

     I can remember long, long ago as a child walking down a quiet, country road at night and watching in amazement what seemed like millions of bats flying off to some mysterious destination.  I have since learned to love bats and become aware of the important role they play on earth.  Bats help us and bees by the nocturnal consumption of insects (up to a 1000 insects in a single hour) including some of the most damaging agricultural pests.  This reduces the amount of required pesticide used by commercial farmers.  The same pesticides which are polluting our environment and killing our bees.

Bats (The Good Guys)
by Virginia Calder

On a warm summer night, from towns east to west,
The mosquitoes will bite without stopping to rest.

But at twilight the bats are out ready to eat
Those annoying mosquitoes before they retreat.

Echolocation is a bats way
Of sending out echoes that bounce off its prey.

When sound waves return to its ears a bat knows
Where a flying bug is and can track where it goes.

As they zoom through the night with eyes so keen,
They swoop to the ground to eat bugs they've seen.

One little brown bat will often devour
Hordes of mosquitoes in just an hour.

There's never a danger when bats are in flight.
It's bugs, not people they attack in the night.

The farmer is pleased because bats are hi pride,
They prove much better than a pesticide.

      Bats also pollinate in tropical areas of the world and in North American deserts are an essential pollinator of specific desert plants.  I have been to Cardon forests in Mexico many times and seen the cactus in flower. The large, colourful  flowers are beautiful but short lived.  These cactus depend on two different types of bats  (the long nosed and the short nosed) for pollination.

      Like many species of native bees, bats are endangered.  Due to disease, a negative image of bats and a loss of habitat many species of bats are struggling to survive.  Bat Conservation International is a great bat information resource and is working hard to conserve the world's bats.  From February 10-16th the first African Bat Conservation Summit will be held to establish a bat conservation network in Africa.
     To learn more about bats, learn how to install a bat house or to adopt a bat go to Bat Conservation International.
     Below is a video by Louie Swartzberg, the master of high-end, time-lapse cinematography, entitled "The Hidden Beauty of Pollination" from  "Pollination: it's vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film "Wings of Life," inspired by the vanishing of one of nature's primary pollinators, the honeybee."

     As Louie says in the video "we protect what we fall in love with".  It's easy to love bees, butterflies and hummingbirds but not so much bats.  Please look at bats for the beautiful, important creatures that they are and hopefully you will fall in love with them as I have.


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