Please allow me to start off my herbal ranting with an introduction to my favorite animal, the bat. There is one, resoundingly repeated, question I am typically asked when people find out that I love bats. “Why bats?” Here’s where I admit that I have gothic leanings and I listen to a lot of heavy metal. I even have a little black cat helping me to write this post. However, I did not start off liking bats half as much as I have come to. I fought my growing interest in bats because it would be extremely cliché for a gothic girl to love bats. But the more I learned about them, the more I admired the little (and sometimes big) creatures. There are over 1,000 species of bats worldwide, and they make up over a quarter of the world’s variety of mammal species. They are typically divided up into two suborders. The Megachiroptera are the larger bats, the largest species in this order can have a wingspan up to 6 feet and weigh up to 2.6 pounds. While the Microchiroptera are the smaller bats, the smallest species weighs less than half an ounce and has a wingspan of just over one inch. They also have the longest lifespans of any animal of their sizes. Small brown bats can live over 30 years. When you add up all the insects that those tiny creatures (average weight is about an ounce, average wingspan is around 8 inches) consume in one night (up to 1,000 mosquitoes), and multiply that by their 30 year lifespan, that’s a LOT of bugs. Living in Central Florida, I really appreciate the mosquito eating power of bats.
So why write about bats in an herbal/botanical blog? Bats are one of the worlds most understated pollinators. Over 500 plant species rely on bats for pollination including mangoes, bananas, cocoa, and agave (tequila anyone?). This is such an important process that it even has been given its own name, chiropterophily. Since bats are nocturnal, this means that chiropterophily happens at night, so the plants that rely on it usually have large, pale, night blooming flowers. Bats are also not a fan of strong, floral scents so many of the flowers they pollinate have a lighter and either a slightly fermented or more fruit-like scent. While, including fungal species, there are 326,175 plants in the world, 500 may seem like a small number. However, the plants that are pollinated by bats are becoming fairly important crop plants. Bats also help to diversify and grow forests by spreading seeds that get caught in their fur. These are majorly important functions for such small mammals.
There are so many reasons to love bats. However I will leave you with this, the most important reason of all. Bats are very, very cute!
Bat Conservation Trust: http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/why_bats_matter.html
Bat Worlds: http://www.batworlds.com/bat-role-in-pollination/
Defenders of Wildlife: http://www.defenders.org/bats/bats
USDA Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/bats.shtml