When you enjoy a tequila or mezcal cocktail this summer, be sure to raise your glass to a pollinating winged wonder--the Mexican long-nosed bat.
When you enjoy a tequila or mezcal cocktail this summer, be sure to raise your glass to a pollinating winged wonder–the Mexican long-nosed bat. Bats like the Mexican long-nosed bat play a key role in producing many of the foods and beverages we enjoy through their pollinating prowess, and this bat in particular has a crucial role in producing some favorite “spirited” beverages.
So how does a bat help make your tequila or mezcal?
Step 1: Pollinating Agaves
The Mexican long-nosed bat is native to both Mexico and the U.S., and every summer it goes for a trip along the “nectar corridor,” following a trail of blooming cacti and agave. At night, the Mexican long-nosed bat emerges for a scrumptious feast, hovering in front of night-blooming agave and cacti flowers and using its three-inch-long tongue to slurp tasty nectar from the flowers and dine on their pollen. Emerging covered in pollen, the voracious Mexican long-nosed bat heads in search of its next pollen and nectar meal, spreading pollen between plants along the way.
Step 2: Harvesting Agaves Sustainably
Agaves, which can take eight or more years to mature, are harvested to produce tequila and mezcal—but there’s a catch. They are harvested just before the flowering stalk (also called a mast)—which can grow over 20 feet tall—shoots up. This is when the sugar content is highest. The harvesting process makes the agave unable to flower and feed bats.
When too many agaves are harvested, there isn’t enough food left for bats. That’s why BCI is working with local partners and agave growers on agave restoration projects. These projects, which are concentrated near important roosting sites and migratory pathways, make sure some agaves are left to bloom so they can provide plenty of food for bats, while people can still enjoy tequila and mezcal.
Step 3: Processing and Distilling Mezcal and Tequila
Once the center part of the agave, called a piña, is harvested, it’s ready to become mezcal or tequila. The piña is cooked, and then processed, extracting the agave juice from the fiber. The agave juice is then fermented, distilled, and aged. Some types are aged for just a few months, while others are aged for years or even a decade.
Next time you enjoy mezcal or tequila, be sure to raise your glass to bats!