Buddies for Bats

 

Our guest speaker at the October 18th meeting, Truth Muller, gave an informative and extremely entertaining presentation on the subject of “Bats”. Mr. Muller, a high school senior, showed an incredible breadth of knowledge about his subject, along with excellent public speaking skills that held our attention for nearly an hour.

Truth began his presentation by asking everyone how they felt about bats, whether they liked or disliked bats. There seemed to be about a 50/50 split among the members. He then went on to describe some of the usual myths surrounding bats, the most common being that they drink your blood. There are a variety of vampire bats that live in Mexico and South America that prey on livestock by making a small cut and then lapping up the blood. They don't attack humans.

 

Truth meticulously dispelled other myths about bats in a very captivating and detailed way with actual facts and figures. He gave some historical background as to why people are fearful of bats and why bats are associated with scary things like vampires, and “Dracula” in particular. He assured everyone that vampires don't exist. Another myth is that bats cannot see, hence “blind as a bat”. This is also not true. Bats see as well as humans. They use what is called “Echo-location” (sound waves) to “see” prey in the dark. The myth that bats attack people is also not true. Most people who are bitten by bats tried to pick them up and the bat defended itself. Rule of thumb, “Don't pick up any wild animal”. The greatest myth of all is that bats carry rabies. Less that one tenth of one percent of all the bats in the world carry rabies.

Truth had a display set up and showed photos and videos of bats. Bats come in all shapes and sizes. Some have 6 foot wingspans. Others can fit in the palm of your hand. The tiny bumble bee bat is the smallest mammal in the world (about the size of a penny). He listed the types bats usually found in Sullivan County.

His overall theme was that bats are not our enemies. They are extremely beneficial to the environment. Bats eat mosquitoes that carry diseases. A very small bat can eat 1,000 mosquitoes in a night. Bats help farmers by eating crop damaging insects. Bats are one of the four greatest pollinators (Bees, Birds, Butterflies, and Bats). There are 500 species of plants that would go extinct without bats to pollinate them. Bats are a vital part of nature’s cycle of life and we should assist them and help restore their numbers in Sullivan County. Bats are our friends.

Bats are in trouble. In some countries farmers view bats as pests that are destroying their fruit crops. In truth they are not. The bats only eat the oldest and over-ripe fruit, which will never make it to market and benefits the plants themselves. Many countries have taken drastic measures against bats like blowing up and sealing caves that contain bats.

In New York State the little brown bat is in trouble for a different reason. Many have what is called white nose syndrome, a fungus that grows on the bat's nose. This disease is itchy and irritates the bats and disrupts their hibernation process. Over the years ninety percent of the bat population in Sullivan County has been lost. The good news is that they are starting to come back.

Building bat boxes was one of the ways Truth suggested for helping restore bats numbers. He handed out information that included plans for building a bat box. The bat box should face a southerly direction about 10 to 15 feet above the ground. He also recommended that the bat box be put on a building or pole rather than a tree. Truth has a facebook page “Buddies for Bats” (https://www.facebook.com/LilBrownBat), where you can find out more information.

The presentation was very polished and professional. There was an extended and extremely informative question and answer period. Truth Muller received more repeated applause at the end of his presentation than any other guest speaker we’ve had in recent memory.