The U.S. Postal Service needed 155 years (and the encouragement of BCI Member Carol Adams of Medina, Texas) to finally put pictures of bats on postage stamps. The very first were introduced in 2002. Now, just five years later, there’s a new U.S. stamp bearing the image of a lesser long-nosed bat pollinating a saguaro cactus.
The new stamp is included in the Pollinator set issued as part of National Pollinator Week, declared by Congress and Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns as June 24-30. The four-stamp set, said Postmaster Yverne Pat Moore, provides “a special way to honor the beauty that is in our midst each day. The animals featured on the stamps are beautiful ambassadors of nature.”
“The intricate design of these stamps emphasizes the ecological relationship between pollinators and plants and suggests the biodiversity necessary to ensure the viability of that relationship,” the Postal Service said in its announcement.
The four stamps depict four wildflowers and four pollinators. In addition to the lesser long-nosed bat, two Morrison’s bumblebees are paired with purple nightshade; a calliope hummingbird sips from a hummingbird trumpet blossom; and a Southern dogface butterfly visits prairie ironweed.
The 2002 American Bat Stamps featured four photographs by BCI Founder and noted wildlife photographer Merlin Tuttle. Adams, by the way, got that ball rolling by showing a BCI bat poster to a member of the Postal Service’s Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee and declaring that bats “are wonderful, they have precious faces, and they need the help.”
For the Pollinator Stamps, the Postal Service says, artist Steve Buchanan created an intricate graphic that emphasizes the relationship between pollinators and plants and hints at the biodiversity that’s required to continue that crucial relationship into the future.
The four stamps are arranged in two alternate blocks that fit together like jigsaw puzzles. In one block the pollinators form a central starburst. In the other, the flowers are arranged in the center.
Pollination, primarily by insects, bats and birds, is the basis for fruit and seed production. It is essential for countless foods, beverages, fibers, medicines, spices and other invaluable products derived from plants. Human economies depend heavily upon pollinators and, the Postal Service notes, some animal pollinators appear to be declining.
The lesser long-nosed bat, found in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico and in Mexico, is listed as endangered in the United States. It feeds on the fruit and nectar of night-blooming cacti such as saguaro and organ pipe, as well as many species of agave.
Without the pollination services of these bats, the seed set of one agave species, for example, falls to one-three-thousandth of normal. Roost disturbance and habitat loss are the primary threats to lesser long-nosed bats.