The boys of summer are out! The crack of the bat can now be heard at all the major league baseball parks. However it is a different kind of bat, the animal, that has caught my attention recently.

I recently saw a publication titled Bats of North Dakota by Greg Gullickson, outreach biologist with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department. Available through the Game and Fish Department, it is a well illustrated and informative document. It includes a short description of the ten bat species found in North Dakota, as well as how to attract bats and make a bat house and other interesting and useful information. I was surprised to read that a single little brown bat, our most common bat, may catch over a thousand mosquito sized insects in an hour

As some of you may have heard, bat populations are declining across North America these days. A fungal disease, white-nose syndrome, is killing bats at an alarming rate. Plus, although the specifics are not well understood, bats are being killed by wind turbines. It is hard to put it in perspective, but some of these bat species may become endangered species on the state or maybe even the national level.

Most people probably have little concern for bats. Bats don’t make many people’s hearts go pitter-patter. Actually it is probably very much the opposite. We generally do not like bats. We should though. Perhaps it is time to rethink our views on these misunderstood animals.

A recent article in the scientific journal Science addressed the economic importance of bats in agriculture. Bats provide important ecological services because they are voracious insect predators, a portion of which are crop pests. Depending on how the calculations are made, bats may be worth billions or tens of billions of dollars to agriculture each year. For example, pest suppression by bats in cotton fields has been estimated to average around $74 per acre.

So the next time you see some bats flying overhead or are bitten by a mosquito during the evening hours, I hope you will take a moment to consider the ecological services these species can provide. We may estimate the price of their services to agriculture, but as some of those commercials say, a peaceful evening outside with few mosquitoes: priceless!

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Minot State University-Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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