To The Editor:
Fluttering through the night sky, they conjure fear and disgust in people around the nation. When the word bat is mentioned, one thinks of dark forests and haunted tales. But have you ever stopped to think what place they hold in the animal kingdom?
Believe it or not, bats play a critical role in supporting the nature we all enjoy in Connecticut. Bats pollinate flowers and they suppress insect numbers. According to a recent article published in Science magazine by Justin Boyles and colleagues, a bat colony consisting of 150 individuals consumes approximately 1.3 million pest insects every year. These insects can negatively impact agriculture, which in turn, affects food production and farmers’ livelihoods. Additionally, bats are considered to be indicator species. Indicator species are organisms whose status can notify scientists whether or not ecosystems are functioning properly. For example, as documented in Endangered Species Research by Gareth Jones and colleagues, bat populations will decrease if there are disruptions in the environment such as habitat degradation, pesticide use, and declines in water quality. It is astounding that we can use bats to gauge whether or not Connecticut natural areas are healthy.
Bats have tremendous impacts on the environment and our lives, but they desperately need our help. Populations are crashing due to White Nose Syndrome, which is a fungus that alters behavior in hibernating bats, resulting in death.
Despite this dire threat, there are ways you can help. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are three important ways citizens can provide quality habitat for bats: 1. Put up bat boxes in your backyard. 2. If it is safe to do so, leave dead and dying trees standing - they are perfect places for roosts. 3. Reduce the use of pesticides on your property.
Bats are amazing creatures that need our help to thrive - and you do not have to be a scientist to make an impact!