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Nature’s Favorite Pollinators

When most people think of pollinators, fluffy bees and beautiful butterflies fluttering around in the afternoon sun, often come to mind. However, one of the most overlooked pollinators has whole industries relying on them to pollinate their crops during the night shift – bats.

  • No Bats = No Tequila: Mexico’s entire tequila industry relies on a single species of bat-pollinated agave plant. Mexican long-tongued (Choeronycteris mexicana) and Lesser long-nosed (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) bats depend on the agave plant’s energy-rich nectar and pollen for sustenance, while the plants depend on the bats for their continued survival. This nocturnal symbiosis has created a whole industry that not only makes your margarita possible but also brings in billions of dollars to local Mexican economies (while supporting native plant and bat populations). Watch this short movie to learn more! 
Mexican long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris nivalis) pollinating an Agave cerrudo's flowering panicles in Oaxaca, Mexico.
  • Billion-Dollar Bats Bringing us Durian: Southeast Asia’s favorite fruit, the durian, relies on bats like the cave nectar bat (Eonycteris spelaea) to support this more-than-a-billion-dollar industry. Durian is an ecologically and economically valuable plant that is perfectly structured for bat pollination. This crop is a major part of the economy in many parts of SE Asia, with Thailand being its number one exporter.
  • Going Bananas for Bats: All the commercial bananas you buy at the store originated from bat-pollinated ancestors in SE Asia. Commercial bananas in the U.S. don’t have seeds, so they don’t need to be pollinated, but the wild bat-pollinated bananas still provide potentially key sources of genes for improving disease resistance when growers want to create new varieties of this popular fruit. 
  • Tree of Life: The famous night-blooming baobab tree of East African savannahs relies on bats for pollination. This tree provides key wildlife habitat and its fruit is considered one of the world’s richest sources of numerous essential vitamins, with sales reaching roughly a billion dollars annually.
  • Other Plants that Rely on Bats: While bats are most known for their role in pollinating agave, there are over 500 different species of flowering plants that rely on bats for pollination, including balsa and mangrove trees.
A cave nectar bat (Eonycteris spelaea) pollinating a mangrove flower in Thailand. Mangroves rely heavily on bats for pollination and are ecologically critical for land stabilization as well as providing timber, charcoal, and breeding grounds essential to seafood production.
A minor epauletted fruit bat (Epomophorus labiatus minor), about to pollinate a baobab flower. This famous tree is key to the survival of many other plants and animals and is worth approximately a billion dollars a year in exports for the vitamin industry, yet it in turn is highly dependent on bats for its pollination.

Pollinating bats are often drawn to flowers that are not brightly colored – usually white or pale flowers. The nectar of these flowers attracts bats and while they’re enjoying a sweet, nourishing snack, they’re also getting covered in pollen to spread to the next flower they head to for more nourishment. Bats also carry more pollen farther than any other pollinators. So, next time you’re eating a banana or adding some agave to sweeten your tea, be sure to thank a bat for their hard work.

You can find these bat pollination pictures and more in our photo gallery. Our photos are available for you to use and share, thanks to our generous members and supporters. Please feel free to purchase and share to educate others on the importance of bats.

And… Click here to read about our work with National Geographic to help educate people on bat pollination!

Want to show bats some additional love? Shop some MTBC merch and support our organization:

Katie Netherton is the Communications Coordinator at Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation.

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Michael Lazari Karapetian

Michael Lazari Karapetian has over twenty years of investment management experience. He has a degree in business management, is a certified NBA agent, and gained early experience as a money manager for the Bank of America where he established model portfolios for high-net-worth clients. In 2003 he founded Lazari Capital Management, Inc. and Lazari Asset Management, Inc.  He is President and CIO of both and manages over a half a billion in assets. In his personal time he champions philanthropic causes. He serves on the board of Moravian College and has a strong affinity for wildlife, both funding and volunteering on behalf of endangered species.