116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
With the humid heat of summer often come the familiar buzz of bugs in your ears and the pinch of mosquitoes biting into your skin.
The heroes we need? Bats.
While nibbling on bugs protects humans from getting bitten while enjoying a nice summer afternoon, bats’ eating habits also help protect crops common in Iowa.
One study, in Illinois, looked at what would happen if bats weren’t around to protect cornfields. Researchers there concluded bats provide “free pest control” worth about $1 billion to corn farmers around the world each year. Without bats, moth larvae and other pests did considerable damage to crops.
Despite all the good that bats do for our environment, they have a reputation for being gross or even scary. According to the Dickinson County Conservation Board, there are lots of myths — false stories — about bats that keep people from loving these flying creatures.
One myth is that bats are like vampires, ready to suck your blood if you get close. Only one kind of bat drinks blood, the Vampire bat, and all of them live in Central and South America. Plus, they mostly just lick the blood of cows and other animals.
Some people think bats will attack them. But if a bat swoops near you, it is probably trying to eat the insects flying around you. “It’s more like Superman watching out for you than something to be afraid of,” Dickinson County Conservation Board explains.
Another myth is that bats are dirty. Actually, bats clean themselves like cats, spending at least an hour everyday bathing themselves by licking their own fur.
After spending the winter hibernating in caves, bats like to spend the summers in trees, under bridges and even in old buildings raising their babies, according to PBS. If you see them outside, know they are probably more scared of you than you are of them.
And if you want to help bats keeping living in Iowa — where several factors, including habitat loss, wind turbines and a fungal disease called White-nose Syndrome, have threatened the mammal — talk to an adult about buying or building a bat box. These can help provide shelter to bats when others can’t be found.