Year of the Bat

Mexican Free-Tailed bats in Austin, TexasLate summer is one of the best times of the year to spot bats. As a child I would spend the last week of August with my family on the North Norfolk coast. At dusk we would stroll through the woods to the local village for a beverage (mine was a cherry cola). Whilst we shivered in a drafty pub garden, the sight of hundreds of pipistrelle bats flitting above our heads made me forget the numbness of my toes.

This year the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) have joined together to celebrate the Year of the Bat and I hope with the fantastic events organised people won’t regard bats as pests. In fact bats can be your very own, on-site pest control technicians. A tiny pipistrelle can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night – that’s one heck of a dent in a nasty mosquito infestation. Bats are not rodents, and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation.

Some bats in Europe carry a rabies virus called European Bat Lyssavirus (EBLV) but this is very rare in the UK’s bats. Because bats only give birth to one baby a year, their roosts are protected by law. If you find a bat in your home or business premises seek advice from the Bats Conservation Trust.

You may rest assured that there are no bloodsucking Vampire bats in the UK. Worldwide from over 1000 species of bat,  only three species are of the vampire variety which are only located in Central and South America.  These fascinating mammals, which can walk as well as fly, suck up to a tablespoon at a time the blood of birds and mammals such as cows.

In the UK there are 18 species of bat. The most common is the pipistrelle. There’s lots of information about bat species in the UK at the Bat Conservation Trust website, and you can even listen to them as well.

A free online tool can help you identify bats. The iBatsID app has just been launched and can identify 34 out of 45 species of bats found in Europe. Here are some more fascinating facts about bats:

7 Bat Facts

  • The largest bat species in the world is called the giant golden-crowned flying fox and it lives in the Philippine Islands. Its wingspan is about five feet and it weighs about three pounds.
  • The smallest bat in the world is the bumblebee bat which is the size of a large bumblebee.
  • Most species of bats hibernate with other bats, including their families, distant relatives, and even some bats that they may never have had contact with before.  Bats often return to the same hibernation spot year after year.
  • The biggest known population of bats is in Bracken Cave, near San Antonio, Texas.  Millions of Mexican free-tailed bats live in this cave.
  • Bats can live for up to 30 years.
  • Since 2006 bat populations in North America have been threatened by White-Nose Syndrome.  More than 5 million bats in the Northeast, as far west as Missouri and as far south as Alabama have been affected by this disease.
  • Long-nosed bats are the prime pollinators of the agave plant, one of the main ingredients of Tequila.

If you notice the bats tonight at dusk complete the Bat Conservation Trust Sunset/ Sunrise Survey which is monitoring bat activity in the UK. Check out the Big Bat Map to find the best locations to spot bats.

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  1. Belén

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