Importance of Bats

Without bats, the Earth would be a very different and much poorer place. More than 1,300 species of bats around the world are playing ecological roles that are vital to the health of natural ecosystems and human economies.

Many bat species consume vast amounts of insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests. Others pollinate many valuable plants, ensuring the production of fruits that support local economies, as well as diverse animal populations. Fruit-eating bats in the tropics disperse seeds that are critical to restoring cleared or damaged rainforests. Even bat droppings (called guano) are valuable as a rich natural fertilizer. Guano is a major natural resource worldwide, and, when mined responsibly with bats in mind, it can provide significant economic benefits for landowners and local communities.

Swarm of Bats

Bats are often considered “keystone species” that are essential to some tropical and desert ecosystems. Without bats’ pollination and seed-dispersing services, local ecosystems could gradually collapse as plants fail to provide food and cover for wildlife species near the base of the food chain.

Consider the great baobab tree of the East African savannah: It is so critical to the survival of so many wild species that it is often called the “African Tree of Life.” Yet it depends almost exclusively on bats for pollination. Without bats, the Tree of Life could die out, threatening one of our planet’s richest ecosystems.

What if I found a bat on the ground or one that looks injured?

Do not touch what appears to be an injured bat or a bat on the ground. Contact a bat rescuer. To find a bat expert near you, visit Bat World and click on “Found a Bat?”, then enter your ZIP code. Also, view and download the flier, "Bats and Rabies - A Public Health Guide (PDF)."

  1. Pest Control
  2. Pollinators
  3. Seed Dispersers

Bats in AustinThe majority of bats in the U.S. are insectivores. They hunt at night and eat flying insects such as mosquitoes, beetles and moths, many of which are considered pests. Bats provide an important ecological service by eating tons of insects.

Insectivorous bats are primary predators of night-flying insects, and many very damaging pests are on their menu. Pregnant or nursing mothers of some bat species will consume up to their body weight in insects each night.

The millions of Mexican free-tailed bats at BCI’s Bracken Cave in Central Texas eat tons of insects each summer night. And a favorite target in the United States and Mexico is an especially damaging pest called the corn earworm moth (aka cotton bollworm, tomato fruitworm, etc.) that attacks a host of commercial plants from artichokes to watermelons. Worldwide crop damage from this moth is estimated at more than $1 billion a year, and research in 2006 concluded that free-tails save cotton farmers in south-central Texas more than $740,000 annually.

Throughout the United States, scientists estimate, bats are worth more than $3.7 billion a year in reduced crop damage and pesticide use. And that, of course, means fewer pesticides enter the ecosystem.