Aunt Linda here on this chilly early November day, writing to you from under a Tucson bridge. My feet are burrowed in the arroyos’ sand – which is dotted with bat guano. The smell of guano is thick and earthy. And while I am not in a cave, it smells like the inside of a cave from down here. The chattering and “chirping” from the bats above delights me. Bridges, it turns out, are comfortable roosting places for bats. The expansion joints offer 1 foot deep grooves for bats to roost. Habitat loss is a significant challenge that bats face, and while bridges were not constructed with bats in mind, it turns out that they are bat friendly places.
Today we widen our scope beyond the Sonoran Desert and fly into the rainforests. Before we leave though, I’ll mention that bats are more closely related to primates (yes, humans included) than they are to rodents.They are the only mammals to achieve true flight. They are not flying mice; they do not glide like some squirrels. They fly.
And they have been doing so for 50 million years.
One of many reason bats are considered a “keystone species” – meaning so essential to certain ecosystems that they would collapse without them – is that they are extremely effective “seed dispersers”. As we know, huge areas of the planet’s rainforests are cleared every year. Regenerating these vast expanses of open areas, where once a forest thrived, requires seed dispersal. Birds and many primates, fear crossing vast areas where there is little shelter from attacking flying predators, so they usually stick to trees, where they they defecate seeds directly beneath where they perch. In contrast, nocturnal fruit bats have no such concern. Covering large distances over large clearings every evening while they feed and forage, they also drop seeds in those wide expanses. It turns out that many of those very seeds are from “pioneer plants”; those plants capable of growing in the hot/dry extreme conditions found in clearings. The growth of these plants invite other more delicate plants to grow and take root, they do this by the shelter they provide other plants, as well as by providing safe perching sites for birds and other primates, who are now too, dispersing more varieties os seeds. I discovered that seeds dropped by bats usher in up to 95% of the first new growth within these clearings.
Bats have been reported to disperse seeds such as dates, figs, cashews (hence the recipe today) as well as MANY others.
RECIPE : Seed Dispersal Clusters
- 2, 3oz chocolate bars (or just a plane 6 oz) I used Lilly’s dark chocolate (coconut flavor) because I like the lack of sugar, but I have used the Trader Joe’s Jumbo bars for bigger batches, chocolate chips, … The Point: use whatever YOU Like. Dark, not dark ….
- a handful of roasted salted (your preference of salted or not) cashews. I love the salt with the sweet.
- 1-2 Figs – dried and unsulfured – slice
- 4 dates (I used sun-dried and unsulfured) sliced
- Optional: for the tops – 1 chiltepin per cluster, or a few pomegranate seeds. Or combine the two.
(And use what you have on hand. I have used almonds, ginger, chia seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seed, pepita (pumpkin) seeds, dried cranberries … the bats might agree: sky is the limit)
I discovered a bat fact that surprised me. Unlike birds and bees and butterflies, very few bats actually “take off”, meaning they don’t push off of the ground or branch or flower in order to take flight. Because most bats perch upside down, they simply let of the surface from which they are hanging, immediately flap their wings, and fly.
We know this one as well, don’t we. There are times when, having let go of something – (a way of perceiving, an idea no longer relevant, an identity, a person) – we have a sense of flight. I know I have. There is a sense of an inner lightness. And it can take us places.
BATS!! I am ENCHANTED with them. There is so VERY much to admire about these flying mammals! Stay tuned Bat Friendly Folk: I will be returning to bats again in future posts. I hope to inspire the building of Bat Houses and the planting of Bat Gardens. We’ll talk about all this before springtime so that you can plan. Whether or not you want to build bat houses or plant bat gardens, you will definitely want to learn about making Guano Tea for the gardens you normally tend. Please feel free and write me with any comments and suggestions and experiences you have had with any of the above.
If luck permits, we may also explore the making of “bacanora”, which is a potent drink made from an agave species in Sonora.
The making of this product affects bats.