Each year on April 17, National Bat Appreciation Day reminds us of the roles bats play in our daily lives. Although there are lots of negative misconceptions about them, they are actually very important. In tropical areas, bats act as pollinators and help plants reproduce and grow. In Illinois, bats are insectivores that eat bugs that could make us sick or destroy crops. Read on to learn more about these cool animals and discover they’re not that scary after all!
Let’s meet the bats of Illinois!
Did you know that there are 13 species of bats that live in Illinois? Like the red bat pictured here, they all feed on insects, including mosquitos. Since insects aren’t available year-round, the bats either have to migrate or hibernate in order to survive the winter. Even though they can fly, they have a number of predators, including cats, raccoons, and hawks. Click here to check out the Illinois Department of Natural Resources’ poster detailing all 13 bats of Illinois!
Guiding Question: What do you think bats eat? How does that compare to what they really eat? Do you think that makes bats helpful to humans? Why or why not?
Taking a closer look
Although each of these bat species is different, there are a number of things they have in common. They are all nocturnal, meaning they’re all active at night. They all have wings made of the skin of the arm, hand, and fingers. While they have pretty good eyesight, their eyes aren’t well adapted to seeing at night. Instead, they all have rather large ears, excellent hearing, and they use echolocation. They send out high pitched sounds and use their incredible sense of hearing to listen for echoes. This helps the bats find prey and navigate.
Guiding Question: What do you notice about the bat’s body? What are some adaptations it might have for surviving the wild? For getting around at night?
Going batty with Story Time!
Want to keep exploring bats with your young scientist? Check out the Internet Archive’s library of books, including “The Magic School Bus: Going Batty!” Click here to check it out.
Teaching Tip: Take Story Time to the next level by using our graphic organizer. Click here to download it to guide your young scientist’s discussions during and after Story Time!
The Bat Bridges of Austin, Texas
Did you know that there is a bridge in Austin, Texas that has become the perfect spot for migrating bats to roost? Our friends at WTTW made a fantastic short documentary about this phenomenon that you can watch here.
Make your own creature of the night!
Now that we’ve learned about bats, let’s make our own nocturnal animals! Gather some paper, tape or glue, and some crafting supplies/recyclables to make your own amazing nocturnal creature with your scientist. Click here for instructions and guiding questions.
Behind the scenes!
We actually have a number of preserved bat specimens in our collection. You can check out a few of them, and some other cool specimens, courtesy of Dawn, our senior director of collections.