Bats are small, furry nocturnal mammals that fly and sleep hanging upside down. Despite their association with Halloween and all things scary, bats are important to our ecosystem because they eat huge quantities of bugs and produce tons of fertilizer, called bat guano. Learn more at this week's collection of bat sites.
When visiting the BatCon site, don't limit yourself to the crafts and puzzles in the Kidz Cave. Also peruse the species profiles, the huge photo gallery (look for it on the Media & Info menu tab), and their humongous list of web links (also in Media & Info.) If you have any interest in photography, the Photographing Bats section is fascinating. "Because of their shy nature and nocturnal habits, bats are exceptionally difficult to portray photographically as they really are in the wild."
Written for lower elementary students, Doug Prouty explains why we should care about bats. Bats can eat up to 300 bugs an hour, including those that destroy crops and plants. They also pollinate or spread the seeds of fruit trees such as bananas, avocados, figs, and peaches. "Besides eating harmful insects and pollinating plants, bat poop or guano is actually a very beneficial fertilizer. It is so strong that people who collect it have to wear gas masks and protective clothing. Farmers benefit greatly as guano is the best fertilizer."
Bat World is a volunteer organization that rescues and rehabilitates thousands of bats each year. In addition to info about what to do if you find a bat ("Do not handle the bat with bare hands and do not attempt to rehabilitate the bat on your own. To do so could jeopardize your safely as well as the life of the bat."), their site offers Q and A about building a bat house, bat anatomy illustrations, bat species details, and a kids page with a jigsaw puzzle and a finger-snapping music video about echolocation (really!)
"Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. With extremely elongated fingers and a wing membrane stretched between, the bat's wing anatomically resembles the human hand." Start with this excellent species overview, which includes diet, population, range, and behavior. Then follow the Imperiled Species link at the end of the article to learn more about the nine species of American bats that are listed as threatened or endangered. "Losing insect-eating bats could trigger massive insect explosions that could have a major impact on agriculture and human health."
For bat lovers up to grade three, Kidzone presents bat activities, facts and photos. Activities include bat coloring pages, online jigsaw puzzles, a fable ("Why Bat Has No Friends"), and more than a dozen printable bat worksheets such as an Itsy Bitsy Bat Book, Bat Questions, and About Bats. "Bats are mammals that live on every continent in the world except Antarctica. All bats have thumbs and fingers, sleep upside down, hunt at night and sleep all day."