Champaign, Ill. (WCIA)

The Widlife Extension joins us to celebrate Bat Week 2023! There’s over 1400 species worldwide, 13 in Illinois. They’re the only mammal that can fly! Bats live incredibly long lives – the record is 41 years. These flying mammals are sure to grab your interest. Bat Specialist Joy O’Keefe joins us today to honor these mammals.

Joy O’Keefe, Assistant Professor and Wildlife Extension Specialist is coming from a lab that conducts research and outreach to facilitate the coexistence of wildlife and humans in human-altered landscapes. Today we focus on bats, a highly imperiled and unique group of animals that provide vital ecosystem services as the major nighttime consumers of insects in our forests and agricultural areas.

Humans can affect bats in good ways and bad ways. Removing natural areas, such as forests, can be detrimental because bats and their insect prey depend on them. We can help bats by turning off lights at night, planting native flora that can feed insects to feed bats, saving dead trees which will provide bats space to roost during the day, and making sure there are clean water sources in the environment.

Bats provide valuable ecosystem services as the primary nighttime consumers of insects. We know bats eat important crop pests like the cucumber beetle and the corn earworm moth. They also eat forest pests, like moths and beetles that eat tree leaves, acorns, and other plant parts.

Bat Week isn’t a great time to see bats in most of Illinois. Start looking for bats in the night sky on warm nights in March, near the end of the hibernation period. Come May, bats will be even more active. You can look for them flying near trees and natural vegetation about 10-20 minutes past sunset on any warm night.

There is fun bat merchandise available for sale locally that casts a positive light on bats. Also we join in some fun with a bat acoustic detector that allows the user to hear bat sounds (which are above the range of human hearing).

People find it fascinating that Joy O’Keefe catch bats at night, which most people think of as scary. People are also amazed that they can record and identify their echolocation calls. People are excited about how our research helps to identify conservation solutions for bats.

Joy O’Keefe lab’s research focuses on understanding the roosting and foraging ecology of bats, measuring bat health in response to human disturbance, identifying best practices for studying bat ecology, characterizing bat behaviors, and assessing the quality of mitigation practices designed to help bats. We regularly share our results with a variety of stakeholders, from home owners to agency biologists. We advise on practical management solutions ranging from effective bat house deployments to best practices for minimizing harm during timber harvests or prescribed burns.

They focus on bat conservation in the Midwest, working closely with agency partners and colleagues to improve methods for monitoring and studying our local bat populations. Also, they regularly conduct bat walks in Champaign-Urbana, which gives them a chance to share the magic of bats with more people.

Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
W-503 Turner Hall
1102 S. Goodwin Ave
Urbana, IL 61801

Social Media Links