These Unsung Pollinators Make Tequila Possible

When we talk about pollinators, we usually picture bees, but insects aren’t the only pollinators out there! Bats are essential when it comes to pollinating the agave plant, which is used to make tequila.

Ironically, a recent the spike in tequila’s popularity is what’scausingproblems for the same bats that help pollinate the agave plant.In commercial tequila production, farmers harvest their agave before it flowers. That means less food for bats.

Large-scale agave producers use cloned agave plants, which is why they can harvest before the plants get a chance to flower. In the short term, cloned plants make growing lots of agave cheap. But long term, it leaves agave crops vulnerable to pests and disease that a biodiverse crop would be able to handle.

There are three kinds of bats that pollinateagave plants, and two of them are on the Endangered SpeciesList. The third is a “species of concern,” meaning it’s at risk.

Bats are Important Pollinators

Even if tequila isn’t high on your priority list, there arehundreds of other plants that bats help pollinate. The pollinators wetalk about most, like bees and butterflies, tend to be active during the day. Nocturnal pollinators, like bats, pollinate plants that bloom primarily at night. Here are a few food plants that rely on bats for pollination

  • mango
  • banana
  • cocoa
  • durian
  • guava

Bats also help pollinate non-edible, flowering plants.

Bats and Tequila

Mike Daulton, of Bat Conservation International told NPR, “The tequila industry has seen a 60 percent growth over the past 10 years. At the super-premium level, where you’re spending $30 a bottle or more, it’s more like 400 percent growth. And that means you have to grow a lot of agave.”

Traditionally, growing a lot of agave has meant relying on cloned plants to churn out that sweet, sweet tequila. But this method isn’t sustainable. The good news is, there’s a group called The Tequila Interchange Project that’s working to promote more sustainable agave growing methods.

In a recent article on their website, theyexplained that early harvesting and cloned plants harms bats and other pollinators. The article describes a chain reaction. Fewer pollinators doesn’t just mean less biodiversity.When you lose the bats and insects, you lose birds, other insects, and microorganisms by extension, and thatdestabilizes the growing region.

Companies who are part ofThe Tequila Interchange Project help support bat populations by letting at least five percent of their agave plants mature before harvesting. According to a 2016 study, even this small percentage of mature plants can help protect bat populations andagave crops.

How You Can Protect Bats

If you’re a tequila drinker, choosing a bat-friendly brand likeTequila Ochois a good way to keep your cocktails ethical. But (of course) you don’t have to drink tequila to protect bats! There are lots of ways to protect these vital nocturnal pollinators:

  • Build a bat house. Habitat loss is devastating to bats, so give them shelter in your own backyard.
  • Leave bat caves alone. Bats sleep all day, so disturbing their caves is dangerous to their health.
  • Report dead or injured bats. Here’s what to do if you come upon a dead or injured bat.
  • Use fewer pesticides.Bats live on insects, so killing all of the bugs in your yard takesmeans hungry bats.

Related at Care2

Bats and tequila rely on each other. No bats, no tequila. And without the agave plant, some endangered bat populations are also in danger.

Images via Thinkstock.

42 comments

Chad A
Chad A5 days ago

Interesting.

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Roberto M
Roberto MARINI9 days ago

thank you I like Tequila but I only drink a bit

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Janis K
Janis K10 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Glennis W
Glennis W11 days ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W11 days ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W11 days ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and sharing

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Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI11 days ago

thank you Backy for this interesting article.

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Leo C
Leo C11 days ago

thank you for sharing!

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Leo C
Leo C11 days ago

thank you for sharing!

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Danuta W
Danuta W11 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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