If you have seen bat houses, or maybe even made your own, you may be wondering why we should be putting more bat houses in the air. The answer is simple, bats help us out in ways we don’t know.
We will start with the basics about bats. Bats are the only mammal that have the ability to fly. The majority of bats feed on insects at night, and sleep during the day. Bats are most commonly sighted at dawn and dusk. All bats sleep hanging upside down while griping onto the surface above with their feed. All bats give live birth. Micro bat species can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in just one night.
Bats are feared by most people. But why? What’s so scary? Bats are reclusive, and typically very small. Bats are also commonly mistaken for being blood sucking vicious destroyers of the night, and while that is true for their long lost humanoid cousin the vampire, there is only one type of bat that feed on blood, the Vampire Bat. The vampire bat lives its life feeding on livestock blood, not human blood. They simply make a small incision on their prey, and lab the blood as it comes to the wound. Although it sounds brutal, most of these wounds are very small, seeing that the vampire bat has a length of 2.5-3.5 inches, and weights around 2 ounces. Most other bats feed exclusively on fruit or insects.
Above: A fruit bat. How could you be scared of that?
Fruit bats are found in various locations in the old world, and there are no fruit bats in either of the Americas. Fruit bats are typically larger than their insect eating cousins, and have also evolved separately from them. Fruit bats have lost the sense of echo-location, because they no longer need to hunt for their food. Fruit bats range in size, from the smallest species being around 2.5 inches and the largest species having a wing span of 5’6”. These bats are non-aggressive, as all bats are, and still sleep in the day.
Above: A giant fruit bat!
Now for the most common type of bat in North America: Micro Bats. Micro bats go by several names, including insectivorous bats, true bats, and echo locating bats. The vast majority of these micro bats feed on insects, but larger species do feed on small frogs, fish, lizards, and even birds. These bats are the kind that will live in your bat houses if you decide to build one.
Above: A micro bat!
These micro bats feed at night using echo location. Although they cannot see in the dark, they do have incredible hearing, and that is how they navigate. Micro bats send out a high pitched vibration that un-perceptible to humans, but clear and steady to them. When these vibrations contact something they bounce back, or echo. These echoes are how bats know where insects, trees, and other bats are.
You are probably asking yourself why would I want these bats around my house, garden, or family? One single bat is capable of eating 1000 mosquitoes in just one night. For those of you who don’t know about mosquitoes, just take a walk at dusk in June, you will be un-pleasantly surprised the next morning when you wake up with red itchy welts on almost every part of your previously exposed skin. Bat feces, or guano, is one of the best available fertilizers to this day. If you decide to build a bat house, you can collect this guano for practically free once a year.
Above: A bat removing another pest
All in all, I think we can all agree, without bats, this world would be different.