EDN Fact Sheet: Bats

Part of our work to protect endangered species involves sharing information about species that are threatened or endangered. Here’s what you might not already know about the mighty bat.


FACT #1 There are more than 1,300 species of bats around the world, making up one-fifth of the world’s mammal population. [1] Bat colonies can contain hundreds of individuals to tens of millions. These colonies help control insect populations and pollinate crops.
FACT #2 The majority of bats eat night-flying insects, including those that threaten crops, which reduces the need for pesticides in agriculture.[2] As the primary predators of night-flying insects, bats play a significant role in controlling insect populations. Studies estimate that some bats eat more than 70% of their weight in insects each night and some pregnant females eat 100% of their body weight.[3]
FACT #3 About a third of bats are fruit- or nectar-feeding and pollinate numerous plants and disperse seeds. Fruit and nectar-feeding bats pollinate many plants, including an estimated 450 commercial plants used by humans. Foods include bananas, peaches, guavas, mangoes, avocados, figs, dates, papaya, almonds, cashew nuts, and vanilla. Also pollinated by bats: The agave plant used to produce tequila.[4]
FACT #4 Many plants in the tropics are pollinated by bats, which are attracted to their strong scents at night. As bats spread the seeds of the plants they eat when they fly, they are important seed-dispersers for many tree species. [5] The seeds dropped by bats can account for as much as 95% of reforested land that has been cleared, which helps create new habitat for countless other species. [6]
FACT #5 The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists 24 bat species as critically endangered, 53 species as endangered, and 104 species as vulnerable.
FACT #6 The economic burden of declining bat populations around the world because of their contribution to agriculture and the health of many ecosystems is estimated at over $3.7 billion every year.[7]
FACT #7 Studies of bats have contributed to the development of navigational aids for the blind, birth control and artificial insemination techniques, vaccine production, and drug testing. They also help provide a better understanding of low-temperature surgical procedures.[8]
FACT #8 White-nose syndrome, a pathogen that affects bats in North America, has resulted in the deaths of as many as 6.7 million bats since 2006. This is also contributing to the decline of bats in other regions around the world.
FACT #9 Bat populations face a variety of threats, from habitat destruction to climate change and disease, but a major threat is human ignorance. Around the world, bats are seen as pests or a nuisance and are exterminated by humans.
FACT #10 Bats have very little body fat and have a hard time staying warm. Some bats migrate to warmer climates to deal with this, but others enter a state of torpor where their temperatures drop and their hearts slow down significantly; they can stay in this state for multiple months. Preserving their habitat and allowing them to be undisturbed is important for bat species to remain healthy.