Longer daylight hours and the warmth of spring evenings mean insects are back in the Iowa skies, along with the birds and bats that eat them.
But this year, like each of the last 10 or more years, there are fewer bats performing their nightly acrobatics in the shine of street lamps or the glow of moonlight over a stream or pond. The causes of the declines in bats – forest habitat loss and an exotic deadly disease called White Nose Syndrome – will be the focus of a webinar series hosted by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach this May.
Along with information critical to preserving bat populations and their habitats, participants who attend and complete a post-session evaluation of the webinar will be given a redemption code for a free shipment of 25 tree seedlings from the State Forest Nursery to plant the bat habitat of the future.
Adam Janke, assistant professor and extension wildlife specialist with Iowa State University, and experts from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, will present on bat biology and forest management for bats in the one-hour program hosted on Zoom. The webinar series will be offered twice in the month of May: from 2-3 p.m. on Friday, May 15 and from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20.
“Bats are vital parts of our Iowa ecosystems and an enriching sight on warm summer nights on farms, rural acreages and even in the city,” said Janke.
Janke said research in Illinois and other Midwestern states has shown that bats are not just good for forests; they’re good for farmers too.
“All nine of Iowa’s bat species are insectivores, and many prefer moths and beetles, which in their larval phases are often common agricultural pests, like corn rootworm,” he said.
However, some species’ populations have declined steadily since the early 2000s, when an exotic fungal disease was introduced from Eurasia that has decimated populations across the eastern United States. That disease, along with the degradation of forests by invasive species and poor management, has made it hard to be a bat in Iowa.
“Our webinar is going to explore the fascinating lives of Iowa’s bats and provide landowners suggestions on how to manage forests to help bats,” said Janke.
The program seeks to increase knowledge and awareness of the importance of bats and bat habitat conservation in Iowa.
“It’s our hope that those who attend can take these tree seedlings and apply what they learned to create the bat forest habitat of the future on their farms and acreages,” said Janke.
All attendees are welcome and encouraged to attend. The first 200 people to complete the survey and order trees from the State Forest Nursery by May 30 will receive the tree seedling packages in the mail.
More information on bats and their preservation can be found through the ISU Extension and Outreach Natural Resource Stewardship website or the publications Mammals of Iowa Field Guide (WL 0006) and Iowa Bats (WL 0008).