7 Ways to Help Bats This Earth Day
By Dr. Kristen Lear
Photo by Jonathan Alonzo at Bat Conservation International
Earth Day is a great time to celebrate the wildlife around us. Let’s celebrate an often-misunderstood animal: bats!
Bats are the only flying mammal, and contrary to popular belief are not rodents. Bats are critical part of ecosystems around the world and also support our economies and everyday lives by controlling pest insects and protecting our agricultural crops, pollinating plants, and bringing us some of our favorite foods (like bananas, avocadoes, and chocolate), and spreading seeds and helping regenerate places like tropical rainforests.
Unfortunately, like many other wild animals, bats are under threat around the world. Even one of Ohio’s bats, the Indiana bat, is endangered.
So what can we do to help? Read on for some fun ideas of how you can help protect bats!
Become a Bat Ambassador!
Learn about the ecological and economic importance of bats and spread the word! Two great places to get started are Bat Conservation International and Bat Week. Plus, check out how other kids are helping bats as part of Bat Conservation International’s Bat Squad!
Take an Evening Bat Walk
Dusk is the perfect time to take a walk and look for bats waking up for the night and flying around in search of insects! Good spots to look are near water and in open areas along tree lines. You may even see some bats hunting insects under streetlights.
Bats fly erratically and may swoop near you, but that’s just because they’re trying to catch the insects that are flying around you! By seeing bats in the wild, we can learn to better appreciate them.
“Adopt” a Bat
While we can’t actually have bats as pets, you can “adopt” a bat through several bat conservation organizations! You’ll get information about the bats you’re helping, and your donation will support bats around the world.
Do Some Fun Bat Activities
There are so many fun batty games, crafts, and activities to do on your own or with your troop! You can make recipes using bat-dependent ingredients, create your own bat mask from several species of bats, color in a Bat Hero comic book or some realistic bats, or follow along with these “Backyard Bativist” activities.
Share your activities and what you learned with your friends and family to spread the word about how neat and important bats are!
Provide Natural Bat Habitat in Your Yard
Bats need shelter, food, and water, just like we do. In Ohio, many bats naturally roost in tree hollows, under tree bark, or among leaves.
If it’s safe to do so, leave old and dead trees standing in your yard to provide homes for bats. You can also create a pond to provide water for them!
Put Up a Bat House
Build and put up a bat house in your yard, school, or local park! Bat houses make a fun troop project and provide safe homes for bats. You can build from scratch (check out the Bat House Builder’s Handbook for step-by-step plans), or you can build DIY kits that are fun for all ages (some great kits can be found here and here)! Multi-chambered houses are best, since more chambers (or rooms) helps keep the house a stable temperature. For Ohio, painting your house a medium to dark color is best.
When looking for a place to install it, find an open area that gets at least 6 hours of sunlight per day, and make sure the bottom of the house is at least 12 feet off the ground. For more tips on putting up bat houses, check out Bat Conservation International’s website.
Plant a “Bat Garden”
All of Ohio’s 11 bat species eat insects (think moths, beetles, and mosquitoes). You can plant a “bat garden” with native, night-blooming flowers that will attract nocturnal insects that our local bats can eat. You’ll have your own little ecosystem in your garden!
Make sure to avoid using pesticides on the plants, which could be ingested by the bats.
Dr. Kristen Lear is a bat conservationist and Endangered Species Interventions Specialist at Bat Conservation International. She grew up as a Girl Scout with Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, earning her Silver and Gold Awards, and is now a Lifetime Member. She is also a National Geographic Explorer and AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador, promoting women and girls in STEM. Find her on Instagram (@batsforlife_kristen) and Twitter (@BatsForLife).