It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s a flying mammal? You might be thinking, “Mammals don’t fly!” But they do, if they are bats.
Bats are the only true flying mammals in the world and inhabit almost all regions of the Earth, except the most extreme desert and polar regions. Washington is home to 15 different species of bats – a small proportion of the more than 1,200 bat species in the world.
For many people, the idea of bats conjures up images of vampires. But only three species of bats drink or actually lap blood from living creatures. These three vampire bat species are found only in Mexico, Central America and South America.
About one-third of the world’s bats feed on the fruit or nectar of plants while the majority of bat species are primarily insect hunters. One little brown bat can consume up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour. Many of the insects that bats hunt are crop-damaging bugs that plague farmers every year.
Because bats are often linked with villains and other scary images in movies and books, people tend to fear these small, flying mammals. But, if you take a closer look, bats are quite interesting and appealing. They range in size from tiny bumblebee bats, weighing less than a penny, to giant flying foxes with six-foot wing spans. They help control pest populations, pollinate plants and disperse seeds.
Even the vampire bats are useful. Scientists have developed an experimental drug based on vampire bat saliva that holds promise for being a potent clot-busting drug used to treat stroke victims.
When viewing bats in the wild, follow these tips from the state Department of Fish and Wildlife. It’s important to be quiet and never try to catch or touch any wild animals. On a warm spring or summer evening, find a comfortable place outside in appropriate habitat with a view of the night skyline to sit and watch for bats. Many bats will emerge 20 to 30 minutes before dark, although the big brown bat is often seen foraging much earlier.
Different species will typically hunt in different habitats. Little brown bats and Yuma bats like to hunt over water, while big brown bats are often seen hunting along forest edges and above the tree canopy. If you aren’t near water or a forest edge, try sitting near an outside bright light. Insects are drawn to light, and bats are drawn to insects.
Bats are amazing flyers and fascinating to watch in flight. They fly in zigzag patterns pursuing their prey. Bats will zip around catching insects in their mouths or scooping them up in their wings. If they catch something in their tail or wing membranes, they will funnel it into their mouths during flight. This catching and eating in flight results in erratic flight patterns and amazing aerial demonstrations. Once you are hooked on bat watching, you might be tempted to get an inexpensive acoustic bat detector so you can listen for the echolocation calls that bats make when locating their prey.
Little reason to fear bats
Manchester & Trafford Pest Control