Sunday, October 11, 2015

Fruit Bats Are Important

There are many myths and legends about bats.

We have all heard the stories that bats are blood suckers, evil, and dangerous.   While these stories are very entertaining, they simply are just not true.  Most bats eat insects--not people or other mammals.  If you have any kind of water nearby, having a family of bats live near your house can be very beneficial.  They eat the mosquitoes that can be such a nuisance.

Batty & Scar climbing down from an afternoon nap to get some fruit (photo: Erica O'Donnell)

There is another type of bat that exists called the fruit bat.  Fruit bats are also known as the megabats (because most are quite large) and the Flying Fox.  Fruit bats have excellent senses; they can see and smell where their food is located from afar.  They enjoy eating fruit, nectar, pollen, and sap.  Their sharp teeth help them penetrate the skin of the fruit and get the juice out.  Some of the fruit bats have wingspans that can be up to 5 feet wide.  Wrapping these large wings around their bodies help them stay warm while they are sleeping.  Fruit bats are social animals.  They can be found in very large colonies, and with so many eyes looking out for predators, this makes them feel safer.  After birth, a mother may not wean her newborns for 3 or more months.

So why are these fruit bats so important you ask?  They pollinate many trees and plants.  This process is called chiropterophily.  Fruit bats are responsible for pollinating some of the delicious fruits we consume, such as mango plants and banana plants.  They are also responsible for pollinating cocoa plants.  When the bats consume fruit with small seeds, they do not digest the seeds.  Instead, they carry and deposit the seeds away from the tree source, which leads to beautiful new trees in the rainforest.  So, the next time you come across a bat, there is no need to be afraid.  They help humans in many different ways.

One of WBS's resident fruit bats just hanging around (photo: Erica O'Donnell)

If you want to see a fruit bat up close, visit our Nature Center at the World Bird Sanctuary.  Our straw-colored fruit bats, Batty and Scar, always welcome visitors to come see them.  You can adopt Batty or Scar for $75.00.  This will help to pay for their food and care for the coming year.

Submitted by Erica O’Donnell, World Bird Sanctuary Education Coordinator

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