Bat Week has arrived. The annual celebration of this often misunderstood animal strives to raise awareness about the more than 1,200 bat species worldwide and their pivotal role in nature.
Bats are widely considered to be nature's pesticide due to their voracious appetite for bugs, especially mosquitoes. Seventy percent of bats eat insects and one bat can consume up to 3,000 bugs in one night.
With numbers like that, some Florida officials pitched a pilot program in 2016 to use bats to help combat the spread of Zika-infected mosquitoes.
But the benefits of bats go far beyond pest control. They play a key role in pollination and distribution of seeds to maintain plants and forests. In Mexico, the Magueyero bat is closely connected to the tequila industry.
All 13 species that regularly occur in Illinois are insectivores but, outside of Illinois, there are bats that prey on small mammals, as well as fruit and nectar.
Over the summer at Hammel Woods, the public had an opportunity to get up close and personal with two types of bats that aren't found in locally: the Egyptian fruit bat and the African straw-colored bat. The goal of the presentation was to educate the public and bust some bat myths.
The creatures wowed the crowd as the presenters from Incredible Bats carried the bats around, showing off their large wingspans and offering up interesting facts. For example, the African straw-colored bat has huge cheeks for food storage and can fly up to 120 miles in search of food.
While bats can give some people the heebie-jeebies, they also can be incredibly adorable. You just need a fruit bat, some fruit and a camera to make some magic happen.