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Kitchen Gardening

Adopt a Bat for Halloween

Bats are often portrayed as a scary icon for Halloween, but what’s happening to these fuzzy flying mammals is more terrifying. Here’s how gardeners can help.

  • Rob Mies, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, shows just how small a big brown bat really is.
    Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton
  • Camilla (left) and Coco are two ambassador bats from the Organization for Bat Conservation who had fun hanging around during a Live Bats! program at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.
    Photo/Illustration: John Pendleton

Are you the kind of gardener who rarely sprays for insect pests, hates mosquitoes, and likes to relax with a margarita after gardening?

If so, I hope you’ll adopt a bat for Halloween.

Bats play a vital role in our environment and our agricultural economy. They disperse seeds, pollinate crops, and feast on insects. Our world as gardeners—and consumers—wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have bats.

But that may be the case in just a few years. Loss of habitat and over-use of pesticides have been continuing problems, but now bats face a more terrifying prospect called white-nose syndrome.

This cold-loving fungus is responsible for killing millions of bats in 13 states over the last four years and millions more could die because of it. Scientists and researchers are working to find a way to stop it, but no solution has yet been found.

In their role as insect-eaters, bats can consume more than 1000 mosquito-sized insects each hour they fly. Economically-speaking, bats provide a valuable service to farmers by eating agricultural pests, like the corn earworm and armyworm moths.

And, if you’ve ever enjoyed a cocktail mixed with tequila, you can thank a bat. The blue agave plant, from which tequila is derived, depends on bats as pollinators. About 70 percent of tropical fruit also depends on bats for either pollination or seed dispersal. The list includes bananas, plantain, figs, dates, mangoes, papaya, and guava.

There are a number of ways gardeners can help bats. One way is to plant a wildlife garden that attracts moths and beetles, some of a bat’s favorite foods. Another way to help is to install one or more bat houses in your landscape.

However, the best way to help our endangered bats is to support educational efforts to teach others about the benefits of these important–and adorable–flying mammals. The Organization for Bat Conservation (OBC) in Michigan is a non-profit bat conservation group. Staff members present educational programs and help care for injured and orphaned bats.

As a special Halloween treat, please consider adopting an OBC resident bat so it can continue to serve as an ambassador for the group’s educational programs.

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