Of the animals we associate with Halloween, bats are arguably the most popular and terrifying. Since the days of Cortez and the Spanish Conquistadors, bats have been widely misunderstood animals in western civilization. After all, a mammal flying around in the dark, drinking the blood of animals, and often falsely accused of attacking humans and drinking their blood indeed conjures up terrifying thoughts for many people!
It is essential to separate fact from fiction to understand the truth about bats. While vampire bats feed primarily on the blood of livestock and wild animals, they rarely bite humans. Furthermore, no vampire bats live in South Carolina. Vampire bats are primarily found from the southwestern United States through Mexico down into the northwestern third of South America.
There are 14 bat species found in South Carolina. All bats found in South Carolina feed on insects, specifically nocturnal insects, and thus suppress many crop and forest insect pests. Insect pests on which bats feed include beetles, mosquitos, midges, gnats, bedbugs, stinkbugs, aphids, leafhoppers, spittlebugs, ants, wasps, termites, lacewings, and grasshoppers. Bats provide an estimated $115 million worth of pest control services to the South Carolina agriculture industry each year. Additionally, as bats reduce pest insect populations, they indirectly reduce the need for insecticides to control these pests.
Unfortunately, 86% of bat species found in South Carolina are listed on South Carolina’s “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” list and are considered “Highest Priority” in the South Carolina State Wildlife Action Plan. White-nose syndrome, a fatal disease of bats, along with the loss of roosting and foraging habitat are the leading causes of bat population decline. Visit the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources Bats in South Carolina webpage (http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/bats/index.html) for more information about bats as well as how to get involved with critical bat conservation efforts in South Carolina! For more information about Bat Week visit, http://batweek.org/. Finally, for more information about creating a bat-friendly environment at home, visit HGIC 2900, Backyard Wildlife Enhancement.
N. Jordan Franklin