Dusk. At Lake Alice, a crowd lines the sidewalk between a wooden fence and the road. Everyone gazes in anticipation at three houses on stilts. Has the sun sunk enough for the bats to emerge? Surely they will come soon.
To pass the time, a young couple look up bat facts with their kids. “Did you know,” says one parent, looking up at the little one sitting on their shoulders, “that bats in Florida eat millions of tons of insects every night? That’s a lot of bugs!”
“I bet you couldn’t eat that many bugs,” the other parent teases the older child holding their hand, earning a predictable “Ewww!”
“But it’s really good that they do that!” the first parent says, “They eat mosquitoes, so you don’t get bitten as often. Plus mosquitoes can make you really sick, so bats help us out by eating them.”
“Really?” responds the child, interest piqued.
“Uh-huh! And they also eat insects that feed on farmers’ crops. So them getting to eat makes it easier for us to eat.”
The second parent chimes in: “It says on this infographic I found that a lot of bats here help pollinate tropical fruits, too, so they’re really helping us out.”
“Whoa, I didn’t know that! Where’d you find that infographic?”
The child sitting on her parent’s shoulders leans forward to point at the phone. “That one has huge ears!”
“Mmhm, it’s called the Florida bonneted bat! Maybe we should do some more research on these when we get home.”
“I saw an article that gives you instructions for setting up a bathouse in the yard. I think we should try putting one near the garden.”
“That sounds like a good idea—Look, here they come!”
And a hush falls over the crowd as black streams begin to pour out of the bathouses, emitting high-pitched cries as they navigate toward the lake.
October is Bat Appreciation Month. Appreciate some bats by learning more about them on Ask IFAS with the articles linked above.