Bats are often thought of as synonymous with Halloween and vampires - blood-thirsty, dangerous, flying creatures. Through this association, we train our children to fear bats. But these mysterious, nocturnal mammals are not the dangerous villains we make them out to be. This Halloween, let's deconstruct the myths surrounding this misunderstood creature, by taking a fun, family excursion to a local bat habitat.
Bats are all around us in Florida - they roost in the trees surrounding our homes, in nearby caves, or even under roofs and in attics. But this shouldn't intimidate us. They serve an important purpose; for one, they eat bugs. And in Florida, we have an abundance of those! A single bat can eat more than 3,000 insects a night! Instead of fearing them, we should celebrate the bat as an important ally in pest-control. Bats also help the plant community in may ways - assisting with pollination, seed dispersal, and providing organic fertilizer (their guano contains important microbes that nourish the soil.)
The University of Florida has embraced the bat, and its conservation, for many years. The Bat Houses, constructed on campus near Lake Alice, provide visitors the opportunity to experience the nightly rituals of a bat colony, while providing information about local bat species. Bat houses are a wonderful conservation tool, since the bats' natural habitat is being encroached upon by human development. Some types of bats, like the Grey Bat, are on the endangered species list. And the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service just last week proposed adding the Florida bonneted bat to the endangered species list.
I strongly recommend taking your kids to the bat houses this month. Educating the youth about bat conservation is vital. It will be a valuable experience for your children, as they learn about our delicate ecosystem and the important role bats play in it. Teaching the next generation about the varying species of the planet, and instilling in them a sense of responsibility to protect them, is the best way to ensure the world's creatures are not decimated.
But, on a lighter note, the outing can also be a wonderful Halloween adventure! What better way to celebrate Halloween than to stand under a group of bats catching their breakfast of flying insects?! So, put that Bat : Halloween correlation to good use!
Another fun Halloween project could be building a real bat habitat. You can personally get involved in bat conservation by building a bat house in your own yard. Because we are eliminating the bats' habitat, it is our responsibility to ensure bats have a safe place to exist (preferably not in our homes!) As such, building a bat house is a great way to co-exist with these animals. You'll be giving them a safe-haven and protecting your family by reducing the chance that bats will attempt to roost under your eaves, or in your house.
IMPORTANT: Like all wild creatures, we must remember to respect their space. Don't encourage kids to get too close, or to pick up a bat off the ground. Like any wild animal, they may bite out of fear. We should always avoid touching wild animals. Remind children of this.
However, do encourage your children to see bats as incredible animals, ones to be admired, not feared. Teach them that conserving bats starts with them. Through our example (showing we care about protecting wildlife), our children will see the importance of taking care of the environment, and internalize the conservation message, working to preserve this miraculous planet.