Bats Program at Fertile Nature Center August 25

Submitted by Wayne Goeken
Crookston Times

How many insects can they eat in one night? How many babies does each mother have each year? How many species are found in Minnesota? The answers are 3,000-7,000 insects a night, one baby a year, and seven species in Minnesota—and the subject being referenced is BATS—the only mammal that can truly fly. Learn more about this fascinating and very beneficial animal at a free public program to be presented Wednesday, August 25th at 7:30 p.m. at the Fertile Nature Center.

Amy Westmark, Northwest MN DNR Nongame Wildlife Specialist based in Bemidji, will present this informative program about bats including showing bats found in our area; sharing why bats are important for insect control, pollination, and seed dispersal; bat threats from white-nose syndrome; and use of bat houses to help with bat conservation.

After the indoor program, those interested in “listening” for bats are welcome to join Amy and Agassiz ELC volunteers for an outdoor search using an echolocator device that detects bat sonar and translates these signals into lower frequency sounds audible to the human ear and uses a special app to identify the species of bats that are present. This part of the program will begin around sunset, which is about 8:20 on August 25th.

One of the species likely to be “heard” is the hoary bat—the largest bat species in Minnesota with a wing span of 15-16 inches and weighing up to one ounce. Hoary bats like to eat moths, including moths that produce army worms and forest tent caterpillars. The hoary bat is also one of the three species of Minnesota bats that migrate hundreds of miles each fall to warmer areas that provide insects for their food supply.

Of the four bat species that are considered “cave bats” and hibernate in Minnesota over winter, the most common one is the little brown bat, which feasts heavily on mosquitoes. Bats can eat up to half their body weight in insects each night with nursing females eating up to their full body weight each night. While in flight, little brown bats heart rate gets up to 1,365 beats per minute but drops to 25 beats per minute when hibernating over the winter.

Big brown bats, which also hibernate in Minnesota, have a wing span of up to nearly 14 inches. They are heavy predators of beetles that are often garden and crop pests. Numerous feeding studies of big brown bats indicate that they consume significant crop and forest pests including ground beetles, scarab beetles, cucumber beetles, snout beetles and stink bugs, in addition to numerous species of moths and leafhoppers. 

Many bat populations, including bat colonies in Minnesota, have been decimated by a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome which particularly affects cave dwelling bats. The largest hibernacula (wintering area) in Minnesota, the Soudan Underground Mine, has had over 70% loss of bats. As bats typically only have one offspring (pup) each year, maintaining or expanding beneficial bat populations is a concern. Plans for building bat houses will be available for anyone interested in helping promote bat conservation.

This free community program is being coordinated by the Agassiz Environmental Learning Center. To get to the Fertile Nature Center/Agassiz ELC, go 3/4 mile west of MN Hwy 32 on Summit Ave. If you have any questions about the program, contact Agassiz ELC Executive Director Wayne Goeken at 218-280-0516.