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In the week leading up to Halloween, let's celebrate Bats!

  • 10/24/2023 3:11:00 PM
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In popular culture, bats are creatures to be feared, especially this time of year with their association with Halloween and all things spooky. It’s perhaps not surprising that they have this reputation. Bats are only active at night and usually appear as indistinct shapes fluttering in the moonlight. OR they are huddling together in dark, dank places like caves, and abandoned buildings. Or perhaps, they’ve taken up residence in your attic!

In reality, though, bats are not something to be afraid of or grossed out by. In fact, a fellow bat enthusiast we know calls them,  “sky puppies” because they are pretty darn cute! They are the only North American mammal that has truly mastered flight and they spend most of their time sleeping or eating literal tons of insects, many of which are agricultural and human pests. We actually have a lot to thank bats for!

It's Bat Week!
Every year, the week leading up to Halloween is designated as Bat Week, which gives us the opportunity to celebrate bats and the important role they play in our world!
During this week let's celebrate bats by learning a little bit more about them. Below are 10 fun facts about bats in Iowa.

  1. There are nine species of bat that call Iowa home. Five of these species are hibernators (live in Iowa year-round) and four are migratory and head for warmer climes as soon as it starts getting too cold for insects to be active.
  2. Bats and Halloween? In Iowa, bats are typically hibernating or on their way south by October 31st so you are not likely to see many bats on Halloween unless they are made of plastic!
  3. Risk of Rabies. Most wildlife can carry disease and many mammals can be carriers of rabies. Only a very small percentage of bats carry rabies so the risk of contracting rabies from a bat is also small. However, you should always be cautious if you come into contact with a bat! Do not handle them or any wild animal. If you have come into contact with a bat or any animal you think may be rabid, contact the Iowa Department of Health for next steps.
  4. Bats are surprisingly long-lived for a small mammal, living, on average, 15-30 years depending on the species. In addition, bat mom’s only raise 1-4 young per year. 
  5. A bat’s favorite night out? Eating as many moths and mosquitos as they can catch! A single colony of big brown bats can reduce the corn rootworm population in an area by 33 million.
  6. Echolocation! This is a form of sonar that bats have developed that helps them navigate and hunt for insects in the dark. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind but echolocation really gives them a boost.
  7. Iowa’s hibernating bats breed in the fall, but females do not become pregnant until Spring after they come out of hibernation.
  8. Where do bats like to hang out?  It depends! Most are very forest dependent and during the summer roost under the loose bark of trees, in tree cavities or in amongst the leaves. A few species will also utilize a handy building space - barns, house attics, under eaves or loose siding. During the winter, the vast majority must use caves or mines to hibernate though big brown bats can be found using buildings.  
  9. The highest diversity and abundance of bats in Iowa occurs in Eastern Iowa, where there is more forested land and most of Iowa’s caves can be found.
  10. Can bats turn into vampires? No.

Believe it or not, bats make our world a better place! So, this year I hope you will join us in sending a little love and gratitude their way. Or if love is perhaps a little too far, at least some respect.

Want to go further and help bats? You can do so by leaving dead trees standing, planting trees with loose bark (like shagbark hickory, American elm or white oak) or by planting a garden to support the insects that bats need to eat. These small actions will help us to continue celebrating bat week for many years to come!

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