Indiana State University Newsroom

8th Annual Bat Festival set for Sept. 13 in Indy

August 21, 2014

Children often learn the fable of the country mouse going to visit his city-mouse cousin. Attendees of the eighth annual Indiana Bat Festival will get a similar lesson — only, of course, with bats.

Sponsored by the Indiana State University Center for Bat Research, Outreach and Conservation and hosted by the IUPUI Center for Earth and Environmental Sciences, this year’s festival, set for Sept. 13 in Indianapolis, has a theme of “Bats in the City.” Exhibits and presentations will highlight the kinds of bats found in metropolitan areas, why they’re good neighbors to have and how the actions of city dwellers can have an impact on bats and their habitats.

Previous festivals have been held in Terre Haute and attract a loyal audience and pool of volunteers, said Joy O’Keefe, assistant professor of biology and director of the bat center.

“People get really excited about the bat festival. They love coming and love hearing about the things we’re doing with bats,” O’Keefe said. “We figured if we went to Indy, we’d attract some new bat fans and be able to speak to a larger audience.”

This year, the festival is part of the White River Festival, a two-week celebration of all things river-related, including water quality.

“Bats are tied to (the need for) healthy streams, because bats eat insects over streams,” O’Keefe said. “Bats are important to healthy waterways, and healthy waterways are important to bats.”

But perhaps the biggest addition to the festival this year is a group of pint-sized bat experts from Muncie, best known for their “What Does the Indiana Bat Say?” video on YouTube.

The third graders from Inspire Academy-A School of Inquiry will perform their song at both the afternoon and evening sessions and answer questions after each performance.

“What they did is called expeditionary learning, where they spent four months just devoted to bats. So, their whole class was just bats, bats, bats, and these kids are basically bat experts,” O’Keefe said. “The teachers are happy about (coming), the kids are really stoked, the parents are really excited. Everyone is really excited to be a part of this year’s festival.”

Bats are facing serious threats these days, including habitat destruction and the devastatingly deadly White Nose Syndrome, so outreach programs like the bat festival help educate and hopefully protect the remaining bat population, O’Keefe said.

“It’s important to have this festival, because people fear what they don’t understand, and bats are one of those groups of animals that people think of as creepy-crawly and scary. In reality, bats are so important for us, and they’re not very scary at all,” O’Keefe said.

“The best way the average person can help bats is by understanding them and by telling other people how awesome bats are and what bats do for us, so bats get a better rap with the public. Hopefully, people feel more positively about bats, and that will translate into … maybe if there’s a bat in my house, I should try to get it out but not kill it. That would be something really positive for bats — to not have people be another one of their threats.”

Most bats are the size of a quarter or two in weight — and they eat nearly that amount of insects each night.

“They have a significant impact on insects that are pests to us — like mosquitos and gnats — but also on insects that are pests to our crops and trees, like moths and beetles. Without bats, we have to apply more pesticides and suffer more from the effects of these pests,” O’Keefe said.

Daytime events, which run 10 a.m.-4 p.m. on the campus of IUPUI (325 University Blvd, Indianapolis), include live bat and raptor exhibits, presentations by bat experts, children’s activities and the sale of bat merchandise.

The fun continues into the evening, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. at Garfield Park in the Pagoda, located at 2505 Conservatory Dr., Indianapolis. Try your hand at bat field research techniques or kids can play the Batventures course, sponsored by Duke Energy. Then, for the main event, watch and hear bats fly in the park.

The event is co-sponsored by Indiana State's Bat Center and the IUPUI Center for Earth and Environmental Science. For more information, go to


Video: -- “What does the Indiana Bat say?” Third-graders at Inspire Academy-A School of Inquiry perform this song to share what they had learned about the federally endangered Indiana Bat through the first case study of their learning expedition.

Photos: -- People learn about a bat at the Indiana Bat Festival in 2011. -- Children listen as a book about bats is read during the Indiana Bat Festival in 2011. -- Attendees browse bat information and merchandise at the Indiana Bat Festival in 2011.

Contact: Brianne Walters, assistant director of the Center for Bat Research, Outreach, and Conservation at Indiana State, 812-237-2808 or

Writer: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or