Many people I know totally freak out if there is a bat flying around. While I’m ok with them outside in the evenings, I must say I did find it quite disconcerting to discover one in the baby’s room!
I was really surprised to see that when not flying, they are really small and quite cute – I didn’t actually know what it was until it opened its wings to start flying around and around my head! This one was cute anyway. Eventually, I shut the husband out of the room (he is absolutely useless with things like that), switched off the light and opened the window as wide as possible. It finally flew out on its own thank goodness. I wasn’t sure what I would have done if that had failed but check out this link if you ever need to know!
Bats are yet another animal I have been surprised to learn about that play an important role in monitoring the state of our planet. An excellent resource is the Bat Conservation Trust where I found out that ‘Bats are a vital part of our native wildlife, accounting for almost a third of all mammal species in the UK and occupy a wide range of habitats, such as wetlands, woodlands, farmland, as well as urban areas. They can tell us a lot about the state of the environment, as they are top predators of common nocturnal insects and are sensitive to changes in land use practices. The pressures they face – such as landscape change, agricultural intensification, development, and habitat fragmentation are also relevant to many other wildlife species, making them excellent indicators for the wider health of the UK’s wildlife.’
- With almost 1000 species of bats to be found worldwide, they make up a quarter of all the mammal species on earth!
- 17 different species of bats live in the UK, some populations in the millions, others on the verge of extinction.
- Although there are apparently blood – sucking vampire bats in South America, 70 % of bats prefer to eat insects. In fact, a common pipistrelle can eat over 3000 tiny insects in one night so it definitely won’t be eating you! Just think how helpful this is with regards to natural pest control especially keeping down numbers of actual blood – sucking mosquitoes and midges!
- The types of bats that don’t eat insects or suck blood can eat a variety of other foods such as fruit, nectar, fish or small mammals, birds, lizards and frogs.
- Over 500 plant species rely on bats to pollinate their flowers. This includes species of banana, mango, agave and cocoa. Without bats – there would be no tequila or chocolate!
- Bats are the only mammals that are truly able to fly. Their wings anatomically resemble a very long-fingered human hand with a wing membrane stretched between them.
- Bats are not blind but because they are nocturnal, it’s a bit tricky for them to see so well. To overcome this, they use a highly sophisticated sense of hearing called echolocation. The bat calls out and theses sounds bounce off objects in their path, sending echoes back to the bats. From these echoes, the bat can tell, in a split second, the size of the object, how far away it is, how fast it is travelling and even its texture.
- Bat calls are at too high a frequency for a human to hear so special bat detectors can be used to help identify different species of bats.
- Bats are found throughout the world except for the extreme polar regions and deserts.
- Some species live on their own while others form colonies of millions.
- Bat homes include caves, crevices, trees and buildings including houses and churches.
- A baby bat is called a pup and can weigh up to 25% of its mothers body weight. This is equivalent to having a 31 pound baby! Pups are generally cared for in maternity colonies with no input from the males but a bat mum can find her own baby amongst thousands or millions by its unique voice and scent.
- In winter, some species migrate, others hibernate or some go into something called torpor (reduced metabolic rate for a short period of time – more on that in a later post!)
- Bat droppings are called guano which is one of the richest fertilisers to be found.
- The world’s largest bat is the “flying fox” that lives on islands in the South Pacific. It has a wingspan of up six feet.
- The world’s smallest bat is the bumble bee bat of Thailand, which is smaller than a thumbnail and weighs less than a penny.
- Finally, in Britain all bat species and their roosts are legally protected, by both domestic and international legislation therefore it is a criminal offence to intentionally harm or destroy bats or their roosts. To try to reassure you, unlike rats or rodents which will chew through wires and wood, bats do no harm to the buildings in which they roost.
Contact the Bat Conservation Trust for advice on how to get a bat out of your house if you find one like I did, or for any other batty type questions!