DENVER — A student at McAuliffe International School is encouraging her community to reevaluate how it perceives bats as they face an image problem due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For her eighth-grade community project, Olivia Beasley is sharing her love of bats and all the advantages they provide with her neighbors.
"They're just these awesome creatures with super big ears and little teeth and they're just cute but still a little creepy," Olivia said.
Olivia's grandparents gave her family a custom bat house to hang on their chimney seven years ago.
From May through October, more than 100 bats call the box home.
"In the evening, just as the sun is setting, we'll bring a couple of chairs out and sit on the sidewalk, have a cocktail or glass of wine and just wait for them to come out," Olivia's mom, Amy Beasley said.
Besides providing family-friendly entertainment, the bats serve two important functions: they control pests and provide fertilizer.
"Because of COVID and all of that, they’ve been viewed as just like these dirty animals that you don't want to touch or even be involved with," Olivia said.
Even friends of Olivia's mom had asked if she would be getting rid of the bat house hanging on the family's chimney.
According to the CDC, there is no evidence the virus causing COVID-19 exists in bats living in the United States or that they are a source of the virus.
In fact, the CDC says that already declining bat populations in the United States could be further threatened by the disease itself or by harm inflicted on bats by humans due to the misconception that they are spreading COVID-19.
"[Olivia] took this on and thought of the relationship between bats and COVID and wanting to kind of change people's minds and make them aware that they're more good than bad," Amy Beasley said.
Olivia is currently in the second stage of her assignment and said she has, so far, gotten a positive response from her community.
"I hope that I've inspired a couple of people to put up bat houses or just be respectful of the bats," Olivia said.
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