Written by Autumn Horne, Asstistant Naturalist, Daggerwing Nature Center
Here at Daggerwing Nature Center, the bat houses are open for business! Our small homestead is accepting all qualified members of the Order Chiroptera with echolocation in good standing. Chiroptera, which is Greek for “hand wing,” is the order to which all bats belong, and we are excited to have collaborated with fellow hand-wing lovers Shari Blisset-Clark and John Clark of the Florida Bat Conservancy to erect a whole new bat housing development on the Nature Center’s grounds in Burt Aaronson South County Regional Park. As nocturnal species, native bats spend all day at home, and what a privilege it is to be able to provide our fellow airborne earthlings with a safe roost in which to rest their weary wings.
But bats aren’t the only beneficiaries of the arrangement, we humans win too! Bats play an essential role in keeping our ecosystem healthy and functioning, they’re great pest control, seed-dispersers, and pollinators. Plus bats are the only mammals capable of true flight, and it’s tough to beat an early evening sighting of bat-crobatics.
Here in Florida, we have 13 resident bat species (either found year-round or seasonally), two of which are listed as endangered: the Florida bonneted bat and the gray myotis. However bats can be found everywhere on the planet except in some extreme deserts, polar regions, and on certain isolated islands. Our Florida bats are all considered insectivores, and a single little brown bat can eat as many as 1,000 insects in just an hour! Told you it was a win-win situation. And after they eat all those bugs, what happens on the other end? Well, if you can make it past the ick factor, bat poop, also called guano, is some super sensational excrement. Guano is an amazing fertilizer, has little odor, is fungicidal, and is sometimes even sparkly…move over unicorn poop!
But why become a bat landlord? Can’t bats find their own houses? Currently nearly 40% of American bat species are in severe decline, or already listed as threatened or endangered. According to Bat Conservation International, “…bats are under unprecedented threat from widespread habitat destruction, hunting, accelerated climate change, invasive species, and other stresses. Without concerted international action, their populations will continue to fall, driving many species to extinction.” And as we know, bats fertilize, bats pollinate, bats disperse seeds, they keep the insect population in check, so by creating safe homes for bats, we are not only helping insure the survival of a fellow creature, but their survival ensures our survival as well! To quote John Muir, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
So here’s to all our chiropteran friends, and a huge thank you to Shari and John for the important work they do with Florida Bat Conservancy. If you’d like to learn more, stop by the nature center and have a chat with a naturalist, or visit floridabats.org.