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Published:July 20th, 2011 15:45 EST
We All Need to Go a Little Bat Crazy

We All Need to Go a Little Bat Crazy

By Donna Cavanagh

It was late at night, and I was sitting in bed watching TV when I saw a large mosquito fly into the room.  As I stared at this insect, I realized this was no bug. Immediately, the panic alarm went off in my head, and I let out such a blood-curdling scream that I shattered a glass on my nightstand. Okay, the part about the glass is an exaggeration; I threw that in for dramatic effect, but I was truly terrified. Why?  Because what I thought was a big bug, turned out to be a big bat. 

I guess my screams of terror threw off its sonar because the bat swooped out of my room hitting the wall on its way out. Only stunned, it took off again and headed into the living room. My husband, who also had been awakened by screams of terror -- along with my fists beating against his back-- followed the bat downstairs.  He opened the front door and the traumatized bat escaped into the night and probably to the nearest bar for a good stiff drink. Oh, wait that was me; I had the stiff drink.

This was my one and only encounter with a bat except for the infamous vampire bats in movies.  These creatures on the screen do make my skin crawl, and in real life, they don`t pretty up much either. In fact, and I don`t mean to be cruel, but they are sort of gross and definitely bear a strong resemblance to rats-- with the added feature of wings.  It`s funny how I can find birds so cute, but these winged creatures make me shudder with fear. But, I need to come to the defense of bats because they are in danger, especially the brown bats.  They are being killed off by White-Nose Syndrome, a fungus which leads to their starvation, and this is not good because if we don`t have bats, we have bugs-- lots and lots of bugs, and to be honest, I find the idea of swarms of  bugs more repulsive than bats.

It`s time we recognize the contributions of bats on our ecosystem.  Bats bring an estimated $23 billion annually into our agricultural industry. They are the premiere insect control specialists which saves farmers from having to put that money toward chemical pesticides.  And if you think, "What`s a few bugs?",  you better think again because without bats, our crops would be decimated by locusts and other predators which will eat our food supply.  According to researchers, a single colony of 150 bats can kill 1.3 million bugs per year.  Can you imagine how many people might starve if these bugs were allowed to roam free through our farmland and eat our crops? Can you imagine how much OFF bug repellent we would need if all these insects got to live?

Bats have another enemy too: wind turbines.  Yes, the alternative energy wind turbines are racking up the bat death toll. For some inexplicable reason, bats keep flying into them. I don`t understand this one at all. You would think they would learn to avoid these structures once one member of the pack gets shredded, but they don`t. They are drawn to them. Maybe just like my screams of terror threw off the sonar of the bat in my house that night, the sound of the turbines  throw off the sonar of bats in the wild, and the mixed signal sends them straight into the spinning blades.  

 I don`t know what the answers are to saving bats, but I think research needs to be done to find out how to protect them.  We need celebrity endorsements for this cause. The obvious one to me is Christian Bale, Batman in The Dark Knight films.  With The Dark Knight Rises set to hit the theaters next year, he should embrace the bats` cause.  I would also say the Twilight people could step up to the plate too, but I don`t think this is a good idea. They don`t exactly put forth a positive image of bats.  Very few people commit to helping creatures who bite their necks, suck out their blood and turn them into skinny, pale, immortal whiners.  I wonder what Adam West and Burt Ward from the Batman TV show are doing?  Do they need to get in the public eye again?

So, remember, if you see a bat, try not to kill it.  That bat may be the one defense that stands between you and a million bugs that look at you as a midnight snack.