Happy Halloween! Bats might be considered spooky by some, but there are a vital part of our ecosystem. There are more than 1,100 species of bats and they can be found on every continent except Antarctica. Only three species of bats suck blood. Most eat insects – small bats can eat up to 2,000 insects every night, saving many crops from being destroyed.
About 30 percent of bat species eat fruit, pollen or nectar. Bananas, dates, coconut, cloves, vanilla, Brazil nuts and avocados all depend on bats for pollination. Bats help spread seeds for nuts, figs, allspice and cacao, from which chocolate is made. Fruit bats eat the cacao fruit and discard the bean, which grows into a new tree.
Alabama’s Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge is the largest known hibernation cave for gray bats. Between 800,000 and one million gray bats winter here. Bat experts also believe as many as one million Indiana bats may be using Fern Cave. Another 300,000 gray bats roost in Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge, also in Alabama.