Happy Bat Week!
October 24th-31st is Bat Week which is an annual celebration of bats and their role in nature! Bats are an integral part of our ecosystem here in East Tennessee and they play a major role in keeping Blount County beautiful.
Why should we care about bats?
These misunderstood creatures actually vital to the health of our environment and even our economy! Bats are the primary predators of night-flying insects and will typically eat 50% of their body weight in insects each night. These amazing little creatures help us by reducing the number of pests that eat our crops which means farmers use fewer pesticides! Bats also help reduce the number of disease-causing mosquitos which is great news if you dislike turning into a giant walking bug bite in the summer!
Cave bats are in danger!
Did you know Tennessee is the state with the most caves? We have close to 10,000 caves in our beautiful state! However cave-dwelling bats here are facing the threat of extinction because of a fungus introduced to the United States in 2006. This fungus, called White Nose Syndrome, attaches to the nose and wings of the affected bat and causes the bat to wake up during the winter when it should be hibernating. Waking up during hibernation causes the bat to use energy and deplete its fat reserves before spring rolls around. The bat essentially starves to death because there is not enough food in winter to sustain it. Current predictions are grim. It has been predicted that the Little Brown Bat could go extinct within the next 20 years if current trends continue. This is pretty bad news if you are a Little Brown Bat as it is highly likely that you would contract White Nose Syndrome and also highly unlikely that you would survive it.
How can you help bats?
Build a bat house! Not all bats live in caves. They can live in trees, houses, old buildings, and even under bridges. Building a bat house can give them shelter and it gives you free pest control! The National Wildlife Federation has instructions on how to build a bat house on their website which you can access here.
Enjoy visiting caves? You can help bats by disinfecting everything that went into a cave with you before visiting a new cave. While current research shows humans cannot contract White Nose Syndrome, we can spread the fungus from one cave to the next. The spores that cause White Nose can attach to clothing, shoes, and other gear where they can then be brought into new caves.
Happy Halloween and Happy Bat Week from Keep Blount Beautiful!