Did you know that Bats are pollinators too?
Once night falls, bats take over and provide pollination services for many plants that have their flowers open at night. Bats are particularly important pollinators in tropical, sub-tropical rainforest, and desert climates around the world where many plant species rely on bat pollination to reproduce. In fact, 528 plants have been identified as being pollinated by nectar-feeding bats, in which 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination, including mangoes, bananas, cacao, peaches, cloves, and agave.
So the next time you eat some chocolate, say thanks to bats!
Plant flowers most often pollinated by bats have pale coloured, nocturnal open flowers (in contrast, bees are mostly attracted to bright, daytime flowers). These flowers are typically large and bells shaped, and have copious amounts of dilute nectar in the bottom of them. Bats that drink the sweet nectar inside the flowers pick up a dusting of pollen and move it along to other flowers as they feed.
- Open at night
- Large in size (2.5cm to 8.9cm)
- Pale or white in colour
- Very fragrant
- Have copious dilute nectar
Nectar-feeding bats visiting flowers. (A) Glossophaga soricina at flowers of Mabea occidentalis (Euphorbiaceae); (B) Artibeus jamaicensis on a flower of Ochroma pyramidale (Bombacaceae s.s.); (C) Eonycteris spelaea on flowers of Durio zibethinus (Bombacaceae s.s.); (D) Pteropus conspicillatus at flowers of Castanospermum australe (Fabaceae). Photo credits: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.
Many nectar-feeding bat species have evolved to have extraordinary long tongues so that they reach the nectar at the bottom out particular flowers. A great example of this is the tube-lipped nectar bat’s tongue which is more than one and a half times the length of its body!
“Bats…have been called the farmers of the tropics”
Vast expanses of the world’s rainforest are cleared every year, and fruit-eating bats are a keystone species for their role in spreading and restoring important rainforest habitats. Bats are so effective at dispersing seeds into deforested areas that they have been called the “farmers of the tropics.”
Night-foraging fruit bats often cover large distances each night, and they are quite willing to cross forest clearings, and scattering far more seeds than birds across cleared areas. Many of the seeds dispersed by bats are from hardy pioneer plants, the first to grow in the hot, dry conditions of forest clearings. As these plants grow, they provide the shelter that lets other, more delicate plants take root. Seeds dropped by bats can account for up to 95 percent of the first new growth. These pioneer plants also offer shelter for other plants, cover and perches for birds and primates, so they can add still more, different seeds to the mix that can lead eventually to a renewed forest.
Bats working overtime on Pest Control…
Many insect-eating bats are also well known for keeping harmful insects away from crops. They will literally eat tons of them annually that would otherwise be destroying important food crops such as corn. Some of the critters that they consume include June Beetles, Stink Bugs, and Corn Worm Moths. Without the help of these insect-eating bats the use of harmful pesticides would likely significantly increase leading to further harm food-crops, other species, and the surrounding ecosystem.
Learn more... "Bats Worth Over $1 Billion to Corn Industry"
Spread the word about bats, and help promote their conservation!