A group of federal agencies want to let you in on a little secret: Bats are freaking rock stars. They say it's time that you see through the fog of bad Hollywood publicity and recognize their worth on the first National Bat Week, which kicked off Monday with a presentation at the Agriculture Department. They're concerned because about two million bats are being killed by a fungus called White Nose Syndrome and wind turbines. Here are 10 reasons why bats are cool.
1. If you like mangoes, you like bats. If you like bananas, you like bats. If you like peaches... I could go on like this for a while. What's important to know is that birds and bees aren't the only pollinators of plants. Bats do that too. In fact, the straw-colored sub-Saharan African fruit bat can migrate more than 1,200 miles, spreading seeds across the continent.
2. When you offer a toast with a glass of tequila, tip your hat to the Mexican long-nosed bat that pollinates agave plants, hovering like humming birds while feeding and picking up pollen on their fur. These bats, listed as endangered in Texas, need more than just a toast to their good deeds. Their food source is drying up from overharvesting, and they are disappearing from the caves and abandoned mines where they cluster.
3. Bats eat insects the way you eat candy bars. They love them. I mean they really love them. A single bat will eat 2,000 insects per night, no problem. That amounts to without them, farmers would be spraying a lot more insecticides on your food, and since they would have to pay a lot for designer chemicals to make up for the $3 billion per year bats are worth to agriculture, that cost would be passed directly to you.
4. One of the nicest snacks for bats is the emerald ash borer. They're an invasive species that look like bright green grasshoppers from outer space, and they bore into native ash trees, killing them. Ash trees supply the smooth, durable wood used for flooring, bowling alleys, church pews, baseball bats and electric guitars.
5. Conservationists argue that vampire bats have been framed. They don't drink human blood. They mostly drink the blood of cows in Latin America, with a distinct preference for angus cattle in Mexico. You know who else wolfs down cows? Most of you. Truth is, vampire bat spit led to the discovery of an anti-clotting enzyme that's been synthesized to help stroke victims, says Rob Mies, a biologist for the Organization for Bat Conservation.
6. Hollywood loves bats and so do you. A grown man wears a tight, black costume adorned with a pointy-eared mask, a cape that looks like wings and a bat symbol stretched across the chest as he beats up criminals, and no one blinks. In fact, you pay millions to watch Batman. The latest actor to portray the caped crusader, Ben Affleck, star of "Batman vs. Superman," says bats are one of his favorite animals and should be yours too.
7. It's Halloween, so let's address this Dracula business. Have you noticed that he's absolutely harmless when he takes a bat's form. It's when he changes back into a human that you should hide your wife and kids.
8. Bats sing. Yes, that bird you think you hear... think again. It's a small, sweet chirp.
9. Here's a head turner: Bats don't show signs of aging, says Mies, the Bat Conservation biologist. That includes every species. Researchers go nuts trying to determine how old they are. Females can have babies starting at age 2 to the very last year of their lives. The oldest bat recorded in North America lived to 34, and the oldest in Europe lived to 41. And no, they didn't look their ages. The oldest bat fossil is 52 million years old. Yes, that looks its age.
10. That saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," bats are really into that. They will take care of each other's young. In some caves and mines with millions of individuals, mother bats can find a single baby amid hundreds of thousands of others with their keen ears and noses.
Related: Bats are the new black