Story by Christine Fox, USAG Bavaria Environmental Division Volunteer
For many, just hearing the word “bat” sparks thoughts of mystery and fear. Our culture has portrayed bats as blood sucking, shadowy creatures of the night.
But is that a fair reputation for these unique flying mammals? Ask students from Vilseck or Netzaberg Elementary Schools and they will likely tell you no.
As one third grade student said, “It’s ok for people to be scared of bats, but they should still protect them. Bats are good for us.”
During the month of October, Simone Peuleke and Christine Fox from the U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria’s Environmental Division visited Vilseck and Netzaberg Elementary Schools to talk with students about these nocturnal creatures.
Students learned that there are over 1,000 species of bats around the world, each with its own survival techniques. During winter months, some migrate, and others hibernate, lowering their heart rate and body temperature to conserve energy.
Some species eat fruit, some insects. Some smell their food in order to find it, while others “hear” their food through a process called echolocation. In this process, the bat emits soundwaves that bounce off of objects in its path and send echoes back to the bat, telling it the object’s exact location, how fast it is moving, and in which direction.
Life without bats would be much scarier than life with them. Bats benefit people by consuming large amounts of insects, regenerating forest through seed dispersal, and pollinating plants such as mangoes, bananas, and agave.
According to a recent study conducted through the Environmental Division, there are 16 bat species living in the Grafenwoehr Training Area, all of which consume insects. One of the most common of the local species is the common pipistrelle bat, which weighs a little more than a penny and can eat up to 3,000 insects in one night.
Like bat species around the world, many species in Bavaria are endangered. Their food sources are declining, since pesticide and insecticide use has reduced insect populations.
They are also losing places to roost and hibernate, such as attics, older trees, and caves. You can help bats in your neighborhood by putting up bat boxes and sharing the benefits of bats with neighbors.
Bats are fascinating to watch and can be spotted hunting for insects near fields and street lights in the evenings. So next time you see one of these curious creatures flittering in the twilight, remember the good these misunderstood superheroes do without us even knowing it.
Like any wild animal, bats can carry diseases. If you find a bat on the ground, please do not pick it up. Call Environmental Protection at DSN 475-8222, CIV 09641-83-8222 and we can help.