Brown long-eared bat Plecotus auritus
Bats are the only mammals that can fly. Most bat species are nocturnal. One of the reasons why they avoid daytime activity is that they are relatively slow-flying animals and are easy prey for hawks and falcons. In addition, most bats rely on echolocation which is not very useful for detecting a fast-moving predator at a distance. Raccoons, foxes, snakes, skunks, and domestic cats and dogs also prey on bats. The other reason is to avoid overheating during flight.
Bats are divided into two groups - microbats (around 760 species) and megabats (about 170 species). The smallest bats belong to the hog-nosed bat group. The bumblebee bat is the smallest bat in the world.
Bumblebee bat Craseonycteris thonglongyai
Some megabats are called flying foxes. One of the largest bats in the world is Lyle's flying fox with the wingspan of 6 feet. All megabats are plant-eating animals (herbivores) and most depend on fruit, nectar and young leaves for their diet.
Most bats spend at least 12 hours per day at rest. Young bats are unable to forage until they are able to fly, and most cannot fly until they reach 70 percent of adult size and this is why shelters are so crucial for their survival.
Bats can be found in buildings and barns. Most commonly they roost in caves, rock crevices, and trees. Some species roost in stumps left behind after logging, others may excavate burrows in fallen trees. Bats do not build nests.
Bats have small eyes which is not a disadvantage because they find their way around by using echolocation.
Bat diet varies by species. Most bats eat insects which are considered as pests: leafhoppers, flies, mosquitoes, leafrollers and cutworms. Bats seldom eat beneficial insects such as ladybugs and parasitic wasps which are not nocturnal. Bats can consume their body weight in insects each night, and a typical colony of 150 bats will consume more than a million insects a year. In addition to consuming pests, bats may protect crops by scaring insect pests, such as moths, away from areas with their echolocation calls. Moths which detect bat echolocation stop laying eggs.
Insect-eating bats have curved teeth, while bats that eat fruit have flattened teeth. Vampire bats have razor-sharp teeth. These bats feed on large mammals by cutting their skin and lapping up the blood.
Hawaiian hoary bat Lasiurus cinereus semotus
is an endangered species
There are also fish- and frog-eating bats that use various techniques while hunting. Fringe-lipped bats fly toward their prey using the calls of the male frog to guide them, producing their radar calls only on the final approach. Some bats have ears tuned to hear the faint rustle of frogs. Most frog-eaters snap their jaws shut on the heads of their victims. Mexican fishing bats eat shrimplike crustaceans from the surface of the sea. Greater bulldog bats feed on fiddler crabs as well as fish, which they pluck from the water using large rear feet with hooked claws.
The hairless bat (Cheiromeles torquatus), also called the naked bulldog bat and greater naked bat, is often recognized as bulldog bat for its appearance similar to bulldogs. This hairless species of bats t has remarking features that makes them unique compared to other bat species. One of the distinguishable feature is the tail size which is longer than their hind limb. Its remarking dark grey skin which is devoid of hair but may have some fine patches of hair around the throat and under hind foot.
Although humans pose significant risks to bats, there are also several ways in which the public can assist in saving bat: by planting wildflower gardens and by erecting bat houses on their properties. Contrary to popular belief, rabies is not highly common in bats. Rabies exposure from bats is comparable to that from dogs and less that from cats.
References: File # 113