It’s Bat Night! – A Study in Sound

Did you know that August 29-30 marks the 23rd International Bat Night? While these little winged creatures often get a bad rap, there are so many reasons to love our furry friends. Bats help control insect populations, sometimes serve as pollinators, and can disperse the seeds of plants that are important to us humans (UNEP/EUROBATS). Here in Ohio, we have 13 species of bats that love to eat up mosquitos and other insects, making them nature’s cutest–okay, I might have some bias–bug repellant (All About Bats!). In addition to all of these wonderful activities, bats are some of the coolest energy users around. Let’s investigate more to see how these flying mammals use energy to adapt to their surroundings and flourish.

One of the best-known facts about bats revolves around their usage of sound energy. If you recall from OEP’s lessons, sound is a form of kinetic energy that occurs when a force causes a substance to vibrate. Energy is transferred through the substance as a wave and that vibration is what we hear. We humans, and many other species as well, use sound primarily to communicate with one another. But some animals use sound in additional ways, like for locating food or navigating.

Bats use echolocation, or the location of objects by reflected ultrasonic sound waves, to survive and thrive. Using either their mouth or nose, bats emit sound and then listen for the echoes to return (Harris 2001). These echoes can reveal quite a bit of information to the bat, such as where an object is, which way it is moving, and even how big it is (Harris 2001). Processing all of this information in seconds, these little creatures then decide whether or not they should go on a hunt, stay put, or navigate out of danger’s way. Talk about innovative energy use!

While bats use sound for all sorts of activities, they have distinctive calls for searching, feeding, and socializing (Echolocation). Check out the National Park Service to hear these different calls in action. 

Now that we understand how bats use energy and remain vital to a healthy global ecosystem, it’s important to note that these mammals are in growing threat of extinction. Through habitat destruction, disease, invasive species, and additional stressors, bats are in need of international action (Bats 101 2020). So, what can we do to help out our furry friends?

  1. Install a bat house – Increasingly common at garden stores, bat houses help to attract these nighttime pollinators to your backyard, giving them a protected place to roost.
  2. Avoid using pesticides – Bats are natural pest control and can actually be poisoned by consuming certain pesticides. Consider attracting bats to your backyard rather than spraying your plants.
  3. Keep your cat indoors – Cats are one of the top predators for bats. Keeping your cat indoors when bats are most active could help them thrive in your neighborhood.
  4. Educate your family and friends – Bats have a bad reputation due to misinformation. Be sure to teach others about the benefits of bats and the importance of conservation.

For more information about bats, check out the resources below. And this International Bat Night, tag us on Facebook and Instagram to let us know how you’re celebrating. This August (and every other month), let’s honor these nighttime critters through a concerted commitment to conservation!

Additional resources:

References

UNEP/EUROBATS. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.eurobats.org/about_eurobats/importance_of_bat_conservation

All About Bats! (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.ohiohistory.org/learn/collections/natural-history/natural-history-blog/2015/october-2015/all-about-bats

Harris, T. (2001, June 01). How Bats Work. Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://animals.howstuffworks.com/mammals/bat2.htm

Echolocation. (n.d.). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.nps.gov/subjects/bats/echolocation.htm

Bats 101. (2020, July 29). Retrieved August 27, 2020, from https://www.batcon.org/about-bats/bats-101/