We get it, having a bat in your house can be a stressful, scary, chaotic, and potentially costly experience. But did you know how important bats are to everyday life? While we might not take much notice of them until one ends up in our living room, they play a critical role in the stability of our ecosystem, and can even be beneficial to human health.
The species of bats that can be found in Wisconsin are insectivores, meaning their diet consists of insects like mosquitoes! Without bats and their nightly feasting, the mosquito population would be nearly impossible to control. An increase in mosquitoes would mean an increase in mosquito-borne diseases like the West Nile Virus. Having a healthy bat population in the state means fewer mosquitoes, and healthier people! Bats will also eat insects that cause damage to crops like cotton. These insect-eating bats play an essential role as predators in their ecosystems.
In deserts and tropical areas, bats are more likely to be herbivores, feeding on fruit and nectar from flowers. As they feed, they also pollinate the plants. Pollination is how plants reproduce, and what allows them to produce seeds and fruit. Did you know that without bats, we would no longer have bananas, or tequila, or chocolate? Bats play a crucial role in the survival of the plants that produce these much-loved items. They are just as essential to the health of an ecosystem for their role in pollination as they are in their role as predators.
Bats are far from being on top of the food chain. Here in Wisconsin, some of bats’ main predators are owls, hawks, weasels and even raccoons. If we were to lose bats, our populations of these predators would decrease, which in turn would lead to a massive increase in mice! While it might not be their favorite role, bats do play an important role as prey within an ecosystem, along with their roles as predators and pollinators.
Seeing bats in nature is a good sign, and it can be an indicator that an ecosystem is doing well. It is for this reason that diseases like White-Nose Syndrome, which has had a devastating impact on bat populations across the US since the late 2000’s, cause so much concern. Without bats, our ecosystem would become severely unbalanced, and things like crops and even human health would suffer. We might not want them taking up residence in our homes, but our lives would be a little less bright without them in the world.