Beneficial Bats

As the autumn chill creeps into the air and the local pumpkin patch opens up each weekend, it’s clear that my favorite season—fall—has arrived. ‘Tis the season for yard raking, leaf peeping, hot apple cider and festive decorations adorned with witches, skeletons and bats.

Indiana Bat © USFWS

Bats? Why Bats? The link between bats and Halloween can be traced back to the discovery of the Vampire Bat in the 17th century. These bats are found only in Central and South America, form strong bonds with members of their colony, and do indeed feed on blood.

In contrast to the Vampire Bat, all 15 species of Kentucky’s bats are insectivores, feeding on moths, beetles and even mosquitoes. In fact, Kentucky and neighboring Tennessee are incredibly important states where bat conservation is concerned. Many of the highest priority winter hibernation sites are located here.

Indiana Bats © Robert Barnes

Kentucky’s bats serve a key role within the Commonwealth. They control insects that are harmful to agricultural crops. Pregnant female bats can consume up to their body weight in insects each night, and scientists estimate that bats provide an approximate a public service valued at $3.7 billion throughout the United States by reducing crop damage and pesticide use. Unfortunately, the spread of White Nose Syndrome, a fungus not native to North America, is threatening our bat species.

Bat With White Nose Syndrome © Ryan Von Linden, NY Department of Environmental Conservation

Despite the fact that Vampire Bats are not found in Kentucky, or anywhere in United States, I think bats have earned their role in Halloween celebrations. But at The Nature Conservancy, we celebrate bats year-round—in addition to during Halloween—by protecting their winter hibernacula and foraging habitats, and working with partners to promote resiliency amidst the threat of White Nose Syndrome.

Dr. Danna Baxley is Director of Conservation at The Nature Conservancy’s Kentucky Chapter.

Learn more about recent developments in treating white nose syndrome in Tennessee and support our efforts to conserve bat hibernacula and foraging habitats in Kentucky with a donation today.