Depictions of bats are a common sight this time of year as those around us celebrate the Halloween holiday. But, Sheldon Owen, West Virginia University Extension Service associate professor and wildlife specialist, reminds us that while these nocturnal, flying mammals are mysterious, they’re mostly just misunderstood and offer many ecological benefits.
As part of Bat Week (Oct. 24-31), Owen challenges residents to learn more about the species of bats found in West Virginia and their important role in nature. He’s given us a jumpstart on our exploration by providing some helpful information about bats and how we can help sustain their populations in our areas.
“Bats are so much more than an icon for sinister or spooky stories. They provide great ecological services around the state by feeding on nocturnal insects. The only mammals capable of true powered flight, bats are a diverse group of animals with drastic differences in their physical appearance, behavior and natural history.”
“All 14 species of bats found in West Virginia feed on insects. And, they are voracious eaters, consuming between 50% to 75% of their body weight in insects each night. On average, a West Virginia bat can consume around 6 grams (0.212 oz) of insects per night. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you multiply that by 100,000 bats, that number quickly jumps to 1,325 pounds of insects every night. Think of the number of insects they are removing from your neighborhood!”
“Bats also have the well-earned title of farmers’ best friend. Bats eat many agricultural pests, including June beetles, click beetles, leafhoppers, plant hoppers, spotted cucumber beetles, green stinkbugs and corn earworm moths, which saves U.S. farmers an estimated $3.7 billion in pest control each year and saves our environment from all those chemicals.”
“Many bat species in our region have been facing population declines, but West Virginians can help combat this problem by properly managing forests and protecting roost or cavity trees, constructing bat houses to provide daytime roosting sites, promoting bat conservation and helping educate others about their ecological importance, and avoiding caves or other areas where bats may be hibernating during the upcoming winter months. We can all do our part to help keep our state’s bat populations strong and healthy.” – Sheldon Owen, associate professor and wildlife specialist, WVU Extension Service
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