I’ve never quite understood some people’s revulsion toward bats. Recently someone told me, “I understand bats are important for the environment, but they just aren’t very attractive.”
Personally, I think bats are furry and often tiny and therefore, generally cute (I admit the giant bats called flying foxes make me a little nervous). Sure, they’re a little hard to understand – they sleep upside down, after all, and have senses like echolocation that we can’t even begin to imagine having. However, everything has a purpose, especially the only flying mammal.
Even if you can’t fathom thinking of them as cute, maybe it helps to know of the many beneficial services these creatures provide: frugivorous bats help with pollination and seed dispersal (bananas, avocados, and agave for your tequila, for example) and many bats act as natural pest controllers. Bats can eat thousands of insects in a night. A nursing little brown bat (native to most of the U.S.) can eat more than her weight in insects in a single night. That means that if you have even one mother little brown bat in your backyard, you could be down 4500 mosquitos!
And I’ll put in one final ploy to convince you of bat cuteness: tent bats. I saw these particular little guys while I was studying primatology in Costa Rica. They nibble the top of large palm leaves to bend them in half so that a tent is created. After that, they all gather together in the fold to hide out for the day. Come on, they’re cute, right?!
Unfortunately, bat populations are declining around the world, primarily due to the same reason that many other species are declining: loss of habitat. Bats also suffer because of pesticide use, and a specific fungal disease called white-nose syndrome is killing thousands of bats in the Northeastern United States. White-nose syndrome is not transmissible to humans, but it is fatal to bats. It causes them to lose their fat reserves too early during hibernation so that they wake up before the winter is over. Waking up in the midst of winter means that there are no insects to eat and so these bats are likely to starve to death.
So, why am I talking about bats? Well, with Halloween around the corner, aren’t they on your mind, too? It’s a perfect time to celebrate these creatures of the night!
Recently, I’ve done a few crafty things that bring bats into my life. First, an easy to make bat napkin ring.
This can be done in just a few easy steps:
- Fold a piece of paper in half and draw one side of a bat. Unfold the paper and cut out the bat. Place this cutting on a piece of cardboard (I used an old cereal box) and trace again to make a sturdier pattern.
- Put the pattern onto felt and cut out as many bat patterns as you want napkin rings
- Make a 1″ slit in the wings on the bottom of the left wing and the top of the right wing so that you can slide these together when wrapping around a napkin.
- Place your new napkin holders around napkins! I suggest making more Halloween-y type napkins than I had when I was taking the above picture!
I’m also excited to report on a bat costume I made to use at a series of Halloween events where I’ll be teaching people why bats are awesome and what people can do to help bats (hint: plant native species, protect habitat, avoid pesticides, and consider putting up a bat box!).
Although I had to employ some serious brain work at times, this costume was generally pretty easy to make out of lots of fabric folded over, traced to look like wings, and sewn together with dowel rods in place for the “bones”. I also added some bat ribbon for extra flair, and made stuffed bat ears that I attached to elastic to make a headband.
P.S. Bats won’t get in your hair, aren’t blind, and don’t all have rabies!!
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