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Bats, not villains but ecological superheroes


Bats are one of the most misunderstood and feared animals because they have been negatively categorized by society as dangerous, harmful and bloodthirsty animals.


It is true that, as with any wild animal, we must keep our distance to prevent them from biting us and infecting us with a disease, but the probability of that happening is really low, compared to the benefits we receive from them every day.


Bat Conservation International had the initiative to commemorate April 17 as International Bat Appreciation Day, in order to make visible the ecological role that these animals play, raise awareness about their importance, and make us participate in their conservation. And thus, change the perspective we have about these amazing animals.


5 fun facts about bats

1. Bats are the second largest group of mammals in the world and are made up of more than 1,200 species. They are the only flying mammals (although some others glide such as flying squirrels).

2. The scientific name for bats is Chiroptera, which means “hand-wing”. Their wings are not so different from that of a human hand. The wings of a bat are actually thin membranes of skin that extend between four long fingers and a thumb.

3. Most bats use sound to “see” the world around them, this ingenious navigation system is called echolocation. They send out low-frequency sound waves from their mouth or nose and the sound bounces off their environment allowing them to orient themselves, locate food and avoid obstacles.

4. There are different species of bats: most of them are insectivorous (eat insects), others are frugivorous (eat fruits), nectarivorous (they feed on nectar), piscivorous (eat fish and crustaceans) and a few hematophagous (eat blood). But no need to fear, because they feed only on small mammals and birds and only 3 of the 1300 types of bat species do so, the rest mainly consume insects and fruits. Download this free infographic to learn more about what bats eat.

5. The poop produced by bats is called guano. It contains nitrogen, potassium and phosphate, which contributes to soil fertilization and supports the health and growth of plants, roots and flowers.


Artibeus lituratus, an important species in Guatemala. Aldea Buena Vista Beach, Tapón Creek, Livingston, Izabal. Photography by: David Arrivillaga, FLAAR Mesoamerica, April 2021.

Serving ecosystems

Bats are indicator species, which means they can tell us a lot about the health of an ecosystem. They are sensitive to changes in the environment, so their presence can indicate that an ecosystem is relatively healthy.

They provide essential ecosystem services, such as long-distance pollination, seed dispersal, as well as prevention of agricultural pests.

  • Pollinator: Like bees and hummingbirds, frugivorous and nectarivorous bats act as pollinators during the night. Most flowering plants cannot produce seeds or fruit without pollination, so bats feed on their nectar and in doing so cover themselves with pollen that they carry to other flowers. More than 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination including mangoes, bananas, avocados, peaches, papaya, and agave. 
  • Seed disperser: Frugivorous bats help disperse seeds such as nuts, figs, and cocoa. They eat and then eject the seeds, helping to disperse new trees. Many fruit-eating animals also drop seeds on the ground, but this usually occurs close to where they live. Bats, on the other hand, often fly great distances each night allowing them to cover larger areas. 
  • Pest controller: insectivorous feeding bats help control insect populations and agricultural pests. Most, on average, can eat up to half their body weight in insects. By doing this, bats reduce the number of pesticides farmers need to use (which also means fewer pesticides polluting the environment!).


An incredible phenomenon in Guatemala

One of the most impressive sightings you can witness here in Guatemala is if you visit the Protected Biotope San Miguel La Palotada “El Zotz” in Petén. In this place, specifically in the “Peñon de los Murciélagos” at sunset, you can observe the flight of thousands of bats in search of food, a unique phenomenon called “La Corriente”.

The Biotope has ideal geological and natural features to host huge populations of bats and therefore represents a key location for bat conservation. Watch this unique phenomenon documented by the FLAAR Mesoamerica team.



Faced with many threats

Bat populations are declining almost everywhere in the world and their potential for extinction is increasing. Although some of the problems they face are inherent to their species, such as the fact that they only have one hatchling per year and diseases such as white-nose syndrome, the main cause of their decline is human activity like:

  • The loss and destruction of their natural habitat.
  • Hunting and persecution for sport and meat.
  • Climate change.
  • The proliferation of harmful myths.

How we can help

  • We can help bats by creating and protecting their habitat. If you have old or dead trees in your home, leave them standing (if it is safe to do so).
  • Learn about bats and share it with your friends and family. Bats have a bad reputation and we need to debunk the myths about them.
  • Don’t disturb them. Even minor annoyances can cause bats to leave their roosts.
  • Plant a garden. Creating a garden will help attract insects that help pollinate plants and feed bats, thus contributing to the circle of life.

The more we know about these creatures the more we can appreciate the marvelous complexity of their appearance and behavior and the importance of their existence for the entire planet.





Written by: Niza Franco 

Date: April 2023

Categories: environment, blog, bats, animals 

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