Minnesota’s bats are not really your enemy

The first annual Bat Festival in Minnesota was, shall we say, a “batacular” success.

People lined up for hours to learn about bats, thanks to a sponsorship by the Organization for Bat Conservation.

Cortney Solum, visitors’ center manager at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in Bloomington, estimated the attendance at 3,000, the biggest turnout at the center over many years.

The aim of the festival was to dispel the myths and misinformation about bats and the needless fear so many people have of them. They succeeded by having presentations, speakers, games for kids and the opportunity to see real, live bats from Africa.

Kids colored paper bats, cut them out, and even had their faces painted like bats. The kids warily peeked into the bat cave to see what was inside.
Visitors even had an opportunity to see the bats come out at sunset.

There was bat yoga for the adults, who also had a chance to see a movie about bats, filling an auditorium for multiple showings.
One vendor showed people how to turn their phones into bat detectors.

What’s good about bats? They spread seeds, eat insects and are great pollinators for farmers.

People learned there are 1,200 different kinds of bats in the world.

How can we help bats? Put up a bat house or plant a bat garden that includes night-blooming flowers.
Few bats are harmful to people, because they prefer habitats that are away from people.

You can learn more about bats at: batconservation.org.

Why did so many go to Bat Fest? Solum said people attended because they were curious, since they had heard so many bad traits about bats. Their two main questions dealt with having bats in the house and what good are they? One way to lead them out of a house is by installing a one-way tube.

They came away realizing that although bats sometimes carry disease and are messy, they also have good qualities.

The event was so successful, the refuge hopes to have a bat festival next year.

Maybe that’s a good lesson for all of us during these divisive times. Don’t make judgments about people we suspect are evil until we have all of the facts.

Don Heinzman is a columnist for ECM Publishers.