Bats as Pollinators

Bats are important pollinators in desert and tropical climates. Although many species eat insects, there are several bats in the desert southwest that drink nectar including the lesser long-nosed bat and the Mexican long-tongued bat. During the summer, the lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuena) follows blooming flowers into New Mexico and Arizona, while the Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana) can be found in New Mexico, Texas, Arizona, and even the most southern part of California during this part of the year.

These species pollinate large, pale or white flowers, that are open at night. They prefer fragrant flowers with a fermenting or fruit-like odor that produce a lot of nectar. Did you know that Agave, used to make tequila, as well as the Saguaro cactus, both depend on bats for pollination? Sometimes the bats drink from hummingbird feeders too!

A lesser long nosed bat and mexican long tongued bat at a feeder

A lesser long-nosed bat and a Mexican long-tongued bat by T. Beth Kinsley

Cacti that provide perches and nesting sites for birds, as well as fruit for birds, bats, and other animals, depend on these bats for pollination. Bats are great flyers and can pollinate important desert plants like cacti and agave over long distances, and they can also pollinate crops. Other bat species that eat insects are also important for controlling agricultural pests. 

Threats to Bats

Unfortunately, these bats may be in danger. Although there is evidence of healthier populations in Mexico, both the long-nosed bat and Mexican long-tongued bat have been placed on the federal endangered species list in the US. Habitat loss from development, invasive annual grasses (ie cheatgrass), artificial lighting at night, and changes in fire regimes negatively impact bat populations. Bats are sometimes targeted and killed by people who fear them. These important pollinators are worth our help, not our hate.


Mexican long-tongued bat by Steven Buchmann

Teaching Kids About Bats 

If you want to talk to kids about bats, you can check out some activities and craft ideas at Kidzone. Our favorite book about bats is Stellaluna by Jannell Cannon. Stellaluna is a fruit bat who is adopted by birds. You can find a video of the book read aloud, along with other videos and crafts for kids about bats here.


©Janell Cannon


Forest Service 
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