Indiana bats give birth to only one young in mid-summer. The young bats are capable of flight in a month.
Read about our work to help protect New Jersey's bat population.
Benefits of Bats
Bats have a reputation as being spooky or even dangerous, but they are actually some of the most beneficial animals to people.
All of New Jersey's bats are insectivores. They feed on a huge variety of night-flying insects, including the beetles that devour our crops, the gypsy moths that denude our forests, and of course, those awful mosquitoes. A single little brown bat can eat 3,000 mosquito-sized insects per night! And big brown bats have even been found to eat stink bugs.
A recent study published in Science magazine estimates that bats' insect-eating services may be worth as much as $53 billion to US agriculture alone (read about it here). Without bats, we would be more dependent on toxic pesticides to control unwanted insects.
Some garden pests can even detect the sounds that bats make while feeding and will avoid areas where bats are present. In turn, guano (bat droppings) makes for a terrific garden fertilizer!
In other areas of the world, bats play a major role in pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds for plants such as bananas, avocados, cashews, and mangoes. By dropping a wide variety of plant seeds over open areas, bats also help to restore the tropical rainforests following logging, fire, and other disturbances.
Many scientific advancements are owed to bats as well: navigational aids for the blind, blood-clot medications, artificial insemination techniques, low-temperature surgery on people, and military sonar have all been inspired by our night-flying friends.
Threats to Bats
Bats have been in decline for many years for many reasons. Some of the biggest threats include the loss of their forest habitats and roost trees, disturbance of winter dens, and outright persecution by people. Wind energy development is also raising concerns as wind farms crop up along the ridgeline corridors used by migratory bats. In the east, studies have found that an average of 46 bats are killed annually per wind turbine. Fortunately, research is showing that bat deaths can be tremendously reduced by simply shutting the turbines down during seasonal low-wind periods, when power generation is minimal anyway. Making shut-downs an operational standard should be a priority.
In 2006, an aggressive new threat emerged in the form of White-nose Syndrome (WNS). The Syndrome is named for the white fungus observed first around the noses of affected bats. The fungus attacks during winter hibernation, when the bats' immune response is low, and prevents them from conserving enough stored energy to survive until spring. The fungus causes dehydration and unrest as well as severe wing damage that can prevent bats from flying. Nearly entire hibernating colonies of bats have died in its wake, and more caves and mines are impacted with each passing winter.
White-nose Syndrome was first discovered in a cave near Albany, NY, and has since spread to at least 23 eastern U.S. states and 5 Canadian provinces. The disease was confirmed in New Jersey in January 2009 and has severely depleted the state's most important hibernacula. Tens of thousands of NJ bats - and as many as 6 million in total - have died.
Much is still unknown about WNS and its spread, much less its consequences. The federal government, states, several universities, and private organizations are working hard to track and understand WNS. There is no evidence to suggest that WNS has any affect on humans.
Looking For a Service Project?
If you're looking for an Eagle Scout project, a Girl Scout Gold Award project, or a practical hands-on activity for your school or community group, here's one to consider...Build and donate some bat houses!
Many, many bat colonies are evicted from attics, eaves, and buildings every year in NJ. Those bats are left homeless until they can find either another way into their roost, or some other nearby nook to call home. Often times they just move over to a neighbor's house, passing the nuisance on to someone else.
Bat houses can break the cycle. By putting up a bat house before bats are evicted from a building, they have a good chance of finding and settling into that new roost once their current one is blocked off (see our Bats In Buildings page for proper eviction techniques). This solution keeps a roof over the bats' heads, allows the homeowner to still enjoy a less buggy backyard, and prevents other cases of unwanted bats in the home.
We've come up with a great model that you can follow or tweak:
- Your group acquires the raw materials for a certain number of bat houses.
- You cut and prepare the bat house kits.
- We hold a public workshop together, where local people are educated about the importance of bats and then help to assemble the bat houses.
- The finished bat houses are donated to us - the Conserve Wildlife Foundation - to give to homeowners when a bat eviction is planned.
We're including several pest control companies in the effort, so we have the potential to go through a LOT of bat houses. The more the merrier!
See below for bat house floor plans and installation info.
- Indiana Bat
- White Nose Syndrome
- A Homeowner's Guide to Northeastern Bats and Bat Problems (Penn State University)
- Bat Conservation International
- Bat House Plans Online (we use the "Three Chamber Bat Box" design!)
Bat Fact Sheet - 717.2KB
Bat House Installation Guidelines - 514.0KB
Partner Project - BATS Research Center - 121.8KB
Stephanie Feigin, Wildlife Ecologist: Email
Find Related Info: Bats
Adopt an Indiana bat!
Adopt an Indiana bat and help Conserve Wildlife Foundation protect this endangered species in New Jersey.