5 things you didn't know about bats
Bats have a 'bad rep'. They're usually cast as the bad guy in films and if they’re not sucking the blood of innocent nymphs, they’re getting entangled in their hair. So far so wrong. Bats are fascinating mammals with incredible super-senses and intriguing social habits.
1. Bats aren’t blind
They can actually see very well. However, at night their ears are more important than their eyes. Bats shout as they fly and the returning echoes give them information about what is ahead of them. It’s called echolocation.
Their shouts are so high in frequency that they're inaudible to us. We use a bat detector to tune in to them. This translates the ultra sound into a frequency that we can hear. Romantically minded male bats serenade females in mating season.
2. Bats won't get caught in your hair
Bats' echolocation is so efficient that they can identify the size and shape of an insect and which way it is going. Your head is bigger than an insect. They’re never going to bump into you or get caught in your hair.
3. Bats don’t suck blood
Most bats eat insects - including all 18 species found in the UK. Here, they mainly eat moths, flies and spiders.
Most bats weigh no more than a £1 coin and are only as big as your thumb. However, a tiny pipstrelle bat can eat up to 3000 insects a night.
There are more than 1,100 species of bat in the world. Only three of them feed exclusively on blood. These are the vampire family and they live only in south and central America.
Vampire bats are not very big, around 8cm long. They have specialised infrared sensors to locate blood vessels close to the skin on sleeping cows. They don’t suck blood, but make a little nip in the skin. An anticoagulant in their saliva stops the blood clotting and they lick it up.
Vampire bats look after each other. If one of their colony is ill and can’t go out to feed, one of the other bats will feed it.
4. Bats help make chocolate
We can thank bats for ridding the evening of midges and mosquitos, but we must also thank them for chocolate. Many plants in the tropics rely on bats for pollination, including cocoa, banana, mango and vanilla. They are also essential pollinators for the agave plant - which is one of the ingredients in tequila. So next time you're sipping a margarita, you know who to thank.
5. We love bats
All bats are legally protected in the UK because they have declined so much and some are rare. Bats are fascinating creatures and a vital part of the ecosystem. We are the single biggest owner of bat roosts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.