Posts Tagged: bats
Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long, who has been researching and writing about bats for 20 years, has two colonies of bats at her ranch in Woodland. The bats eat moths, cucumber beetles, leafhoppers, mosquitoes, midges and water boatmen--when they disperse from the water.
Long is finishing the third book of her children's trilogy, The Black Rose Desert, which stars a boy named Jack, a pallid bat named Pinta and a coyote named Sonny. She'll be talking about bats and signing her books, "Gold Fever" and the newly published "Valley of Fire" on Saturday, Dec. 13 from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in the Common Grounds Coffee shop, 729 Main St., Woodland. She plans to showcase museum specimens, in lieu of live bats.
At a recent educational program in the Avid Reader, Davis, Long and her friend Corky Quirk of Nor Cal Bats, an organization dedicated to research, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California, entertained the crowd with information about bats. Quirk displayed live bats: two pallid bats, a big brown-bat and a Mexican free-tailed bat, the latter found beneath the Yolo Causeway.
“Pallid bats are native to the western North America,” Long said. “They're unusual in that in addition to catching prey in flight, they will also hunt on the ground for prey, such as crickets, grasshoppers and scorpions. Pallid bats have huge ears and have amazing hearing—they can pick up the sound of a cricket walking on the ground. They are quite agile on the ground.”
“Some migrate, but it's unclear how far they go,” Long said. “In my story they go long distances. Our neighbor regularly gets colonies of pallid bats in the fall in his barn that then move on somewhere else.”
Long, known for her research and scientific publications about bats and bat houses, said her interest “in writing this trilogy is science literacy for kids to teach them about the natural history of bats and the incredible importance of bats in our world for pollination and pest control benefits. Bats are major pollinators of many plants; without bats we wouldn't have tequila as they are the main pollinators of the agave plant from which tequila is made!"
"In my stories,” Long said, “we learn all kinds of wonderful tidbits about bats, including echolocation, migration, that they feed on insects and that 'blind as a bat' is a total myth.”
Long's avid interest in the ecosystem services of bats revolves around how bats can help with pest control in agricultural crops. "For example, we just determined that in walnuts, each bat provides about $6 in pest control services for codling moth control, a major pest in this crop.
Long recalls telling bat stories to her young son “on our long drives into town from our ranch. He loved them so much that one day I finally decided to write them down to share with other children--and adults too!"
Long's trilogy focuses on a cave-exploring boy named Jack, who is 9 years old that summer when his family heads to their Black Rock Range property to search for gold. Jack, wandering off, falls into a cave and gets lost. His new friends, Pinta, the pallid bat, and a coyote named Sonny help him find his way out but then they all find themselves in danger. Other characters in the book include Jack's parents, uncle, and “the bad guys,” a ring of international poachers. One of the poachers is a newly escaped prison inmate roaming Black Rock Range.
What are some generally unknown facts about pallid bats? “They emit a skunk-like smell when disturbed; it's a predator defense,” Long said. “Their wing membranes are like skin; incredibly sensitive.”
Pallid bats usually have one or two bat pups, once per year, and they can live for more than 20 years, Long said. “These bats glean the tastiest parts of insects and leave other pieces behind --legs, wings, heads-- so you can always tell if you have a pallid bat colony. We find them in our bat houses that are up and around Yolo County.”
Long's efforts to educate young children about bats resulted in praised from science journalist Jim Robbins of the New York Times: “Bats play a little known, but vital role in the world.”
Long's books, published by Tate Publishing Co., Mustang, Okla., introduce “young readers to their world in an engaging and entertaining way,” Robbins wrote.
The general public--children and adults alike--can learn a lot about bats in her books. One of her favorite books on bats is "Bats in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book" by Don Wilson.
Rachael Long (left) and Corky Quirk talk about bats at an educational program at the Avid Reader, Davis. Quirk is holding a bat that's feeding on a mealworm. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Rachael Long displays a bat house made by her friend Ben Frey of Hopland. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Bats are pollinators? Definitely. According to the USDA Forest Service, more than 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. The crops include mangos, bananas and guavas, grown in tropical and desert climates. While bees take the daytime pollinator shift, bats take the nighttime shift.
Entomologists and agriculturists think about bats a lot, too, because bats eat insects that ravage our crops.
Someone who really knows and appreciates bats is Yolo County Farm Advisor Rachael Freeman Long. "I've had a long time interest in ecosystem services of bats because they feed on insects and can help with pest control in agricultural crops," Long said. "For example, we just determined that in walnuts, each bat provides about $6 in pest control services for codling moth control, a major pest in this crop (Long RF et al. 2014. What's a bat worth to a walnut orchard? BATS Magazine [Bat Conservation International] Spring 2014)."
A person of many interests and talents, Long has also written a children's book that features bats.
In honor of bats, The Avid Reader, 617 2nd St., Davis, between E and F St., is planning a special program from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 22. Long will be there for the book signing, and talk about her book, and Corky Quirk of Nor Cal Bats will be there with her live bats and talk about their importance in the world. The organization is dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of bats throughout Northern California.
"My interest in writing this trilogy is science literacy for kids to teach them about the natural history of bats and the incredible importance of bats in our world for pollination and pest control benefits," Long said. "Bats are major pollinators of many plants; without bats we wouldn't have tequila as they are the main pollinators of the agave plant from which tequila is made!"
"In my stories, we learn all kinds of wonderful tidbits about bats, including echolocation, migration, that they feed on insects and that 'blind as a bat' is a total myth. I'll have to talk about their shiny poop in my third book with all the insect exoskeleton parts that bats can't digest and the fancy name of guano!"
Long recalls telling these stories to her son, when he was little, "on our long drives into town from our ranch."
"He loved them so much that one day I finally decided to write them down to share with other children--and adults too!!"
Sadly, bats often get a bad rap. When a person is mentally unstable, he's "batty" or has "bats in the belfry." Visual issues? "Blind as a bat." And who hasn't heard the expression, "like a bat out of hell?" (usually referring to a speeding car heading toward you at breakneck speed).
In Long's book, a little boy named Jack falls into a cave and loses his memory. We won't tell you what happens next but that the book is engaging and entertaining.
Just like bats.
Rachael Long beneath the Yolo Causeway with a bat detector. Notice the bats in the photo. (Photo courtesy of the California Farm Bureau Federation)
“Our crowd sourcing ends on Sunday night, April 20," said wildlife biologist David Wyatt, professor at Sacramento City College. (To learn more about the effort or to donate, check out the "Cataloging Insect and Bat Diversity in Belize" website.)
Wyatt, a professor in the field ecology program and a veteran of nine trips to Belize, in Central America, has scheduled the trip for June 2-16, 2014. A veteran of nine trips to Belize, he will guide the research team of six other biologists, including entomologist Fran Keller, his former student. Keller, who is finishing her doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, studies with major professor Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum and UC Davis professor of entomology.
In addition to establishing a major entomology collection in Belize, the research team will conduct an inventory of bats from this area of Belize. An added bonus to the bat work is that the team will be collecting insect ectoparasites from the bats - in particular the bat flies (Nycteribiidae and Streblidae). “These are a fascinating group of parasitic dipterans that only occur on bats with a high degree of coevolution between the bats and the bat flies,” said Wyatt, who specializes in mammals (ringtails and bats) and also extensively studies in entomology.
The researchers are also teaming with the Biodiversity Center of Belize to conduct DNA barcoding of the insect specimens they collect (each will donate a leg to the analysis) and also barcoding of small wing punches of skin from the bats. Regular updates of the project are being blogged under the Lab Notes section of the website. Supporters who donate are automatically informed of new Lab Notes updates by email.
Keller said that starting an entomological collection “is not an easy thing nor is it inexpensive. With university and governmental cutbacks, funding for basic scientific research, such as biodiversity surveys and discovering new species, is rejected and being replaced by studies focused on climate change and alternative energy resources. Insects act as indicators of climate change and understanding the distribution of insects over time informs the scientific community on how various ecosystems are being altered by climate change.”
“Our crowdsource funding is an attempt to fund research through a unique online company called Experiment.com. We are presenting our research proposal to the public and the public will decide the value by backing the project with donations that range from $5 to--well we will take any maximum amount. Any funds over the requested amount will be applied to the collection set up equipment. With only three days left we are hoping to get as many backers as possible. Getting to work with David to establish this collection in Belize is also an opportunity for a former student to give back to a dedicated mentor.”
Keller is an alumnus of Sacramento City College. She began her academic career as a microbiology major but after completing classes in natural history, entomology, and field entomology, she turned her interests from single-celled organisms to multi-cellular animals. She is now teaching science at the college.
Keller credited Wyatt with encouraging her to transfer to UC Davis to continue her education. “David's enthusiasm and energy for teaching and entomology were contagious,” Keller said. “Although I really do enjoy cell and molecular biology, entomology is my true passion and David helped me recognize that fact. David and I have collected insects together many times in the Mojave Desert and Arizona. He also encouraged me to sign up for a one-week course in the summer to work with bats. Many bats rely on insects as their major food source.”
“I guess I have been an entomologist since I was a child but just didn't know it,” Keller said. During her childhood, she collected bees in jars and added flowers "to see what the bees would do." She and her sisters also collected caterpillars and watched them form chrysalids and emerge as butterflies.
Fran Keller chasing dragonflies. (Photo by Alex Wild)
David Wyatt with a ringtail.