Bats are mammals, not birds, but they can fly using wings that are created by skin flaps between their extremely long “fingers”.
Fossil records show that bats have been around at least 52 million years.
With over 1,000 species, bats represent nearly twenty percent of all known mammal species.
There are two suborders within bats, the Megabats, and the Microbats. Megabats dine on fruit, nectar, and pollen and as such most do not use echolocation and have good vision. Different Microbats feed on insects, small animals, blood, fruit, and so forth,and use echolocation to find their way around.
These bats fell when a barn door was moved - they are cold because this was early morning in spring, as they warmed up they climbed back up the barn to find a hiding spot. © photo by author
Little Brown Bats can eat up to 800 mosquitoes in an night, and are valued by humans for this reason.
A colony of 15 Large Brown Bats can eat 3 million rootworms in one season, and are valued by farmers for this reason.
More interesting facts and trivia on other bat species.
- The Pallid Bat is immune to the stings of scorpions that it relies on for food.
- African Heart Nosed bats have the ability to detect footsteps of tiny beetles from six feet away.
- Fishing bats can detect the fin of a fish as it comes above the waters surface by two millimeters.
- Frog Eating bats in the tropics listen to the frogs to determine if they are a poisonous variety or not.
- Vampire bats have an anti-coagulant in their saliva that helps them to feed successfully on living animals.
- The Honduran White Bat cuts leaves to make tents to protect themselves from rain.
- Disk Winged Bats have suction cup like disks on their wings and feet that they use to hold onto banana, and other, leaves.
- One of the most feared bats, the Vampire Bat, is known for drinking the blood of birds and mammals, however they are also one of the most caring bats, helping orphaned bats and sharing food among their roostmates.
- The Bumblebee bat, also known as Kitti's Hognosed bat, is the smallest mammal in the world.
- Giant Flying Foxes have wingspans nearing 6 feet (2 meters).
The Spectacled Flying Fox is a fruit bat, photo source.
More Information, Facts and Trivia on Bats
Bats are responsible for pollinating many plants as well as seed dispersal. In fact if bats were to die off so would many plant species, and the chain reaction would eventually reach humans, as many of the plants we use for food (eg. Bananas, figs, cashews) rely heavily on bats.
The Agave plant (used to make Tequila), for one, relies heavily on bats for pollination, in fact their production drops to 1/3000 without bat pollinators.
Bats live in colonies and the mothers raise their young by producing milk, much like any other mammal. A female will usually only have one pup at a time.
Long nosed bats sleeping, photo source.
Many bat species are seeing a decline in populations some even being at risk for extinction (many are already listed as endangered). This is in part due to the fact that bats have very slow reproduction rates.
Use of chemical insecticides and pesticides is likely putting a dent in the bat population.
In the Northeast United States a disease known as white fungus disease is taking its toll on the bat population. Sick bats will have a white fungus on their nose, wings and ears. How the disease works is not fully understood but more than a million bats have died.
Bat houses can be built by homeowners who wish to attract bats to their backyard, which is typically done to attract the bats that feed on mosquitoes.
Bat house on a pole, photo source.
During the US Civil war bat guano was used to make gunpowder.
It may be hard to tell if a bat house is being used, but looking on the ground beneath one will show the bat waste, known as guano, small black/brown, droppings, as they start to pile up. This is very high in nutrients and is sometimes used by farmers to fertilize crops.
In homes without bat houses the bats may look for narrow places to rest for the day. This will become their home roost, and they will return to it day after day, while hunting at night. As such some bats find themselves entering homes through cracks.
Bats are often feared as carriers of Rabies (a viral disease that is fatal to humans), if one encounters an active bat in the day time it should not be handled, as this is not a normal time for bats to be active. If somebody is bitten by a bat they should contact a hospital. Rabies is a slow moving virus so there are no immediate worries about going mad and attacking family members or neighbors. Outdoor pets that are likely to encounter a bat (cats and dogs) should be vaccinated against rabies where this virus is active.