Cool Wings and Crazy Knees

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Did you know that bats live near you?

This time of year, you can find bats almost anywhere in North America. Bats are a part of summer—just like ants, bees, worms, snakes, and all those other little critters.

Bats have some strange personal habits. They sleep hanging upside down. They fly—wearing fur—in hot weather. And they collect bugs into “bug baskets.” To support those strange habits, bats have some pretty amazing body parts. God gave them just the right stuff for their role in Creation.

Bats are a part of your life, just like those other critters. That should make you very happy (see “Yummy Bugs!”). And you can be a part of bats’ lives too. Read on to find out how.

Crazy Knees

Some people say that bats’ knees are on backward. They’re not. They just seem backward from the way our knees bend.

Our knees bend forward. Try this: stand up, then walk, then crouch down. Watch your knees while you do this. See how they bend forward?

Now imagine that your knees bent the other way, like a bat’s. Would you be able to walk?

Probably not.

Bats can’t walk very well. (A bat on the ground is a bat in trouble.)

But bats don’t need to walk much. They’re created to fly.

Here’s the great thing about those crazy knees: they give bats “bug baskets.”

Most bats have a flap of skin stretched between their back ankles. When their knees bend, their feet come forward. The skin flap forms a little basket in front of the bat. That’s a great place to store bugs. It’s like a shopping basket. The bat catches a bug, puts it in the basket, and takes it home to eat later.

Hanging Out

Bats spend most of their time hanging out . . . upside down . . . by their back toes! They even sleep that way. And they don’t fall. That’s because they have special toe-lock equipment. The weight of the body hanging upside down pulls their toe claws shut. So they hang on by their toenails, locked in place.

Bats also have special “blood gates.” When bats hang upside down, certain blood vessels close. That prevents too much blood from flowing to their heads.

Cool Wings

Imagine yourself in a fur coat on a hot summer night. Now imagine yourself flying with that coat on. Wouldn’t you get HOT?

Bats are covered with fur, and they fly in hot weather. But they don’t overheat. God gave them natural air-conditioners in their wings.

Hundreds of tiny blood vessels crisscross each wing. Lots of blood flows through those wings. When a bat flies, the wind fans its wings and cools the blood in them. That cool blood flows back to the rest of the bat, cooling the whole bat.

Here’s a bat bonus: The bat can use blood gates for cold weather. It can close blood vessels to keep blood out of the air-cooled wings. The blood inside the bat stays warm, so the whole bat stays warm. That’s cool!

Anybody Home?

Would you like to watch bats swoop around your yard or neighborhood, scooping up insects? Then invite them by putting up a bat house. You can find out where to buy bat houses or how to build them by visiting this website: http://www.batconservation.org.

A Grate Idea

Some bats hibernate (sleep) during the winter, often in caves. They live on fat they’ve stored from food they ate during the fall.

If a hibernating bat is disturbed, it wakes up and moves around. That activity can use up 10 to 30 days’ worth of stored fat. Then the bat will need to eat earlier than usual in the spring. But what if the bugs aren’t out yet? The bat might starve.

Some people love to explore caves. Sometimes they disturb hibernating bats by mistake. That used to be a big problem. Too many bats were disturbed, came out early in the spring, and starved to death.

So people put grates in front of bat caves. Now they close the grates when the bats hibernate. This keeps people out, but the bats can still squeeze through the holes in the grates.

The bats fly out in the spring. Then someone opens the grates.

People can explore the caves at the right times, and the bats can hibernate undisturbed. Isn’t that grate?!

Yummy Bugs!

Most bats eat bugs. They like beetles, moths, flies, and especially mosquitoes. A little brown bat can catch and eat at least 10 to 15 mosquitoes per minute. That’s about 600 mosquitoes an hour!

Some bats eat fruit and flowers. Trees that grow bananas, dates, avocados, mangos, guavas, and cashews depend on bats to pollinate their flowers and/or spread their seeds.

Imagine a world without bats. We’d have a lot more bugs and a lot less fruit! Aren’t you glad God made bats?

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