Hanging Bats

Bats usually sleep hanging upside down.

COURTESY PHOTO

Bats are worth their weight in gold, so to speak.

Overall, bats prevent $3.7 billion a year in crop damage and pesticide use in the U.S., according to Bat Conservation International, a group dedicated to promoting bats.

For example, cucumber beetles eat spinach and corn, and their larvae, corn rootworms, can reduce corn yields by up to 13 percent.

But a single big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), a species found in Idaho, can have a heavy impact on the rootworm population. The bat one of the largest in the U.S. — weighs a mere .5 to 1.2 ounces. But agronomists estimate a colony of 150 big brown bats will eat 38,000 cucumber beetles in a single growing season, preventing the beetles from producing 18 million corn rootworms.

Corn rootworm control costs about $25 per acre to do what big brown bats do for free.

Bats are also important pollinators.

—Mychel Matthews

3 Cool Facts about Bats

Hanging from

their Toes

Bats don’t have to sleep upside down. But they like to sleep as high as they can get to stay out of predators’ reach. Researchers say it’s also easier for bats to take off from the hanging position, in case of danger.

So they hang from the ceiling or anything they can grip — even if it’s each other.

Voracious Mamas

Pregnant or nursing bats eat their own weight in insects every night — 600 to 1,000 mosquitoes per hour.

Medical Potential

Vampire bat saliva contains chemicals — glychoproteins called Draculin — that keep blood from clotting while the bat is drinking its human victim’s blood. Scientists are researching Draculin’s medicinal qualities as an anticoagulant.

Researchers say the anticoagulant in vampire bat saliva may be useful as a treatment for strokes and heart attacks — and may eventually be used to prevent heart attacks.

The common vampire bat is found in the tropics of Mexico, Central America and South America.

—Mychel Matthews 8 Bat Myths and Misconceptions

Myth: Bats are blind.

Truth: Bats have good vision and use echolocation to navigate, increasing their accuracy in flight.

Myth: Bats attack people.

Truth: Most bats are gentle animals and have no interest in humans.

Myth: Bats are pests.

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Truth: The benefits of bats far outnumber the few — if any — negative traits.

Myth: Bats are flying mice.

Truth: Bats are not rodents. Bats are classified in their own order of mammals called Chiroptera, meaning “hand-wing.”

Myth: Bats are unnecessary.

Truth: Bats are critical to the nation’s ecology and economy.

Myth: All bats have rabies.

Truth: Less than 1 percent of bats have rabies. You are more likely to be killed by lightning than by rabies, and even less likely to die from the bite of a rabid bat.

Myth: Bats suck blood.

Truth: Most of the 1,300 kinds of bats in the world are insectivores. Only three — the common vampire bat, the hairy-legged vampire bat and the white-winged vampire bat — feed solely on blood, and none of the three makes its way north of Mexico.

Myth: Bats are dirty.

Truth: Bats are clean and groom themselves daily.

—Mychel Matthews

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