Las Vegas Is Bat Country!
There Are Many Bats In The Desert...
I've been told that I have "Bats in the belfry" for wanting to write about bats, but all kidding aside... they really ARE fascinating creatures!
When we first moved here to Las Vegas, my husband and I would be out walking through the neighborhood. At dusk, we would start to see "swarms" of what I thought were just birds. My husband told me, "Honey? Those aren't birds, They're bats!"
I had always been afraid of bats, probably because of the myths that surround them... one especially, that they drink people's blood, was frightening (it's also NOT TRUE). Vampire bats will sometimes drink the blood of farm animals, cows, horses and the like... but not humans - and the amount they could even drink is very small, maybe an ounce at most.
Another myth that had me frightened of them was that they "get tangled in your hair and try to build a nest." That also is NOT TRUE! That is an old wives tale probably told to get children to stay away from bats. This myth may have started when a bat began to fly erratically towards a human (and the reason they would do that is that humans attract their main source of food, INSECTS - especially gnats and mosquito's).
Bats are not by any stretch of the imagination "out to get us." They are very peaceful creatures, and are extremely beneficial. They eat nearly their weight in insects each night, and sometimes will be a source of a type of natural pesticide for farmers... so the farmers won't have to rely as much on chemical pesticides... which is good for all of us.
I have also read someplace that bats here in the desert eat scorpions... I'll tell you... I am more afraid of scorpions that I would be of bats, so GO BATS! Eat every last one of 'em! (Just kidding, I wouldn't want to disturb the Eco system either, but I'm definitely not fond of scorpions).
Bats are not birds, contrary to what some may believe, they are mammals. They are warm blooded, have fur, and their wings are actually their fingers, covered in one or two very thin layers of skin. They give birth to one offspring at a time. But occasionally, they will have twins - and the baby bats (called "pups) drink mother's milk, just like all other mammals do.
They are also, uniquely, the only mammal that can really fly. Sometimes, you might see a flying squirrel, or maybe even a possum. But they are usually gliding a short distance, not really flying the way that bats can.
There are close to 1,000 species of bats, and they are nocturnal (most active at night). The vast majority of bats (about 70%) eat insects. A smaller amount of them eat fruit, or sip nectar from plants. The very smallest group is that of vampire bats.
When bats eat fruit, they pollinate plants and spread the growth of those plants. The Saguaro cactus here in the Mojave desert is pollinated and it's growth is spread largely due to helpful bats. They can also pollinate bananas, guava and other fruits, making them a very helpful and important part of our ecosystem.
Sometimes people consider bats to be "vermin" and try to destroy entire colonies of them. What they are actually doing by doing this is disturbing a part of the ecosystem. Without bats, bugs can grow alarmingly in population, which is bad for everyone, and the plants that are pollinated and spread by bats would not be as abundant as they are.
The largest gathering of bats anywhere in the world happens each year at Bracken Cave, Texas. People actually travel sometimes thousands of miles to see them. The bats sleep in the caves, and come out at night... and this cave can hold about 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats.
Another popular place to see bats is at the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, Texas. There you can see about 1.5 million bats... and it is another tourist attraction. The bats sleep under the bridge, then fly out at night, to the amazement of all of the interested bat aficionados watching.
So, next time you see a group of bats flying (and you will most often see them in groups since they are very social animals)... just watch them and remember that they are VERY good for our environment. They are out there eating tons of insects, including mosquito's. Having moved to Las Vegas from Wisconsin, there was a joke in Wisconsin that the mosquito is the "state bird".
I can tell you from being around all those mosquito's in Wisconsin that eating mosquito's is a GOOD thing! Just watch bats next time you see them, don't be afraid, and whatever you do, do not disturb them or try to harm them. Our world will be better, more insect free and more ecologically sound for it.
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