When bats come to mind, you would assume they are not coffee-friendly. They look vicious and might eat off the fruits even before harvest. But is that true? Are bats as damaging as you’d thought? What exactly do they do roaming around in camps? What is the role bats play in coffee production?
This post contains all the answers!
Do Bats Pose Any Danger To Coffee?
This fact will come as a shock, but bats do more good than harm to coffee. And they didn’t stop at just coffee; bats are instrumental in plant reproduction generally. Do you know that bats alone pollinate about 500 species of tropical plants annually?
Now, you would argue that bats eat coffee too. Well, most animals eat plants. And about that, not all bats love coffee or plants; some prefer insects. And here is another twist: the bat species that feed on coffee, produce a new and in-demand product: bat spit coffee.
Bat spit coffee is an in-demand product that has a sweetened and unique flavor, unlike traditional coffee. For that reason, it sells for as much as $110 per pound – as of Jan 2020. And it’s all thanks to bats. How so?
When wild bats feed on ripe coffee berries, they release digestive fluids that react with air and the fruit to produce a unique flavor. And unlike the conventional bean, bat spit coffee taste lingers in your mouth. And according to Reuter reports, it is not acidic – in other words, not dangerous.
If you are wondering about poop coffee, it is not bat-related. Bats can hardly chew coffee fruit as a whole. So, myth dispelled!
Regardless, we agree that bats eat coffee, and that’s about all the harm these nightcrawlers can inflict on our beloved morning ritual. Outside that, bats play a crucial and beneficial role in coffee production. What roles?
What is The Role Bats Play In Coffee Production?
Note: bats are nightcrawlers. As such, there is limited research that fully captures their activities. Regardless, we have gathered the vital details. Check them out below!
Ever heard of Keystone Species? If no, let’s enlighten you:
Keystone species are organisms whose presence is paramount to the survival of their immediate ecosystem. Take sharks as an example! They maim and destroy – at least, that is what Hollywood would have us believe. However, without those vicious animals, fishes in the deep seas will outgrow food, spread diseases, and cause all sorts of commotion. As a keystone species, sharks keep the ocean in check!
Does another vicious-looking animal come to mind? Yes?
Bats are also keystone species. Indeed, they seem small but are crucial to the ecosystem of coffee and plants generally. Bats contribute to all activities: ranging from fertilization, pollination, seed dispersal, to even pest control.
Perhaps the activities are far-fetched; the droppings from bats are food to microbes in the soil that aid soil structure, aeration, and the water cycle. So, you see, bats are crucial to the existence of coffee trees. And the following roles will explain further:
Remember we said bats poop coffee is not a thing! Their droppings do something else: fertilisation.
Bats feed on a range of rich plants and insects. As such, they have a steady supply of nutritious meals. In essence, bats’ droppings are equally rich in nutrients. And once those drop on the soil, they act as natural fertilizers. If that doesn’t make sense yet, consider this:
If you own a coffee plantation, do you know how much fertilizer you would have bought? That aside, you would pay for labor. Still, you will worry about maximum residue levels (MRLs).
Bats’ poop, on the other hand, can rid you of the drudgery in coffee production. It fertilizes your soil and enriches your trees. Even better, the poop serves as food to other insects that would have fed on your plants.
The best part: though bats travel in hundreds as camps, and they don’t overpopulate trees. In other words, they will spread across your plantation and fertilize all the area.
Besides poop, the leftover bats’ food will decay and decompose in time; that is another fertilizer – a natural kind at that!
Even for an adequately shaded and lit coffee plantation, insect invasion is usual. Unfortunately, such activities mean low yields or diseases. You wonder, can’t you use pesticides?
You can use pesticides, but then, you will have to worry about MRLs and the cost. What if there were biological pest control?
Good news: there is biological pest control for your coffee plantation troubles: bats!
Besides fruit, bats feed on insects too, and in large quantities, about ½ their body weights. Mind you: bats don’t just eat any insects; they feed on bugs that stick to your ripe coffee and those inhabiting and simultaneously damaging the tree. The best part: bats feed on your plantation’s intruders when they least expect: night!
Bats are nightcrawlers; unfortunately, most coffee insects are not. The latter needs the sun to stay active and fly around, wreaking havoc. But thanks to bats, even the night-flying insects are not safe.
In summary, you will reduce the population of your plantation’s intruders, stop them in their tracks, and all that without lifting a finger or spending a dime!
And do you know what is common in those areas?
You Guessed it! Coffee!
Bats are rainforests’ mainstays. So much so that almost 90% of the pollinations in the area are directly or indirectly results of bats’ activities. Let us surprise you even more!
Do you know that plant pollination by bats has a term? Yes, it does, and that is chiropterophily. That said, how do bats perform the fundamentally crucial step of coffee production?
Bats have a keen affection for nectar and sense of smell, even for the less-scented plants. Plus, they have a well-developed vision that helps them focus their approach. And while bats might not have long beaks to suck nectars and scrub on pollen grains, they have a long retractable tongue.
Most importantly, bats are long-distance migratory birds. In other words, they travel ranges to pollinate new plants, crossbreed and even do seed dispersal.
Another keystone species function bats perform is seed dispersal. When they feed on coffee berries, they usually drop the seed at different areas across their travels. Thus, they limit overcrowding. More importantly, bats send coffee seeds where humans would have thought not viable for coffee production.
Bats are a positive influence on coffee production. They fertilize, disperse, and pollinate coffee seeds. And even when feeding on the seeds, they make our coffee tastier. In short, bats cannot harm coffee, its production, and end product.