Batty facts this International Bat Week

Posted by Elise Kirsten on 29 October 2019

It’s International Bat Week, where bats are celebrated for their battiness. is inviting people to ‘tweet up a storm’ using the hashtag #batweek on Wednesday 30 October at 1pm Eastern Time (7pm in South Africa).

Bats are the only mammal that can fly and are found almost everywhere on Earth, except for in extreme environments like the poles, deserts and at high altitude. These sometimes feared or misunderstood creatures have an important ecological role to play.

There are around 1,400 species of bats and they can eat about their body weight in insects each night, which helps farmers protect their crops. Even fruit bats are not a danger to farmer’s orchards, as fruit bats tend to consume only very ripe fruit, while farmers harvest their fruit before it is fully ripe. Bats are also important pollinators.

Here are nine bats from around the world and some interesting facts about them.

1. Spotted bat


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The spotted bat certainly must have been an inspiration for the creators of the 1984 movie Gremlins. These medium-sized mammals have especially large ears and are named for their pelt with three striking white spots on its dark fur. They live in semi-arid regions of the western United States

2. Bumblebee bat

The bumblebee bat is the world’s smallest mammal and weighs only 2 grams. It’s roughly the size of a bumblebee and lives in caves in Thailand and Myanmar. It feeds on insects and the female gives birth to a single baby in a season. These little creatures are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list.

3. Horseshoe bat

Five species of large horseshoe bats occur in central and eastern Africa with one of the species found in a remote part of the Kruger National Park and another found only in Mozambique.

4. Cape serotine bat

Described as a ‘small brownish bat with a greyish underbelly and semi-scruffy fur,’ the Cape serotine bat – also known as the Cape house bat – is found sub-Saharan Africa, including South Africa and Lesotho. It has been recorded as far north as Guinea Bissau and Eritrea. According to research compiled by the Endangered Wildlife Trust and South African National Biodiversity Institute, the most severe threat to these little bats are wind turbines.

5. Egyptian fruit bat

This species of fruit bat is found throughout Africa (except the Sahara Desert), the Middle East and Pakistan. Believed to be the most vocal bat species, they use echolocation to find food, sending out high pitched squeals and clicks. These bats are about 15cm long but have a wingspan of about 60cm.

6. Free-tailed bat

These robust bats roost in colonies and can consume an enormous amount of moths and insects. They get their name from their tails which extend beyond the tail membranes, unlike most other bats.

7. Northern ghost bat


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Bat Week Continues! Without bats, the Earth would be a very different and much poorer place. They fill ecological roles that are vital to the health of natural ecosystems and human economies. 🦇 Bats consume vast amounts of insects, including some of the most damaging agricultural pests. Others pollinate plants, ensuring the production of fruits that support local economies, as well as diverse animal populations. Fruit-eating bats in the tropics disperse seeds that are critical to restoring cleared or damaged rainforests. Even bat droppings (guano) are valuable as a rich natural fertilizer. Guano is a major natural resource worldwide, and, when mined responsibly, it can provide significant economic benefits for landowners and local communities. 🦇 Pictured is the rare Northern ghost bat that our director took while in Costa Rica this year. They are notoriously difficult to find! . . . #ghostbat #bat #batweek #batsofinstagram #bats #batweek2019

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Northern ghost bats are fairly rare and completely white. This South and Central American bat species is found in humid habitats like riparian and tropical rainforests and roosts under palm fronds. They feed mostly on moths and in Costa Rica they are known to sing when feeding.

8. Hoary bat


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It’s #BatWeek, and we’re hanging out with Hoary bats all week. . Today’s post is from ODFW biologist and Energy Coordinator Sarah Reif, who explains just how we monitor bats and what declines in their populations might mean. Take it away, Sarah. . “This graph shows the estimated population trend for the hoary bat in Oregon and Washington, based on acoustic bat call monitoring conducted by a coalition of researchers and wildlife managers known as the Northwestern Bat Hub (see Rodhouse et al. 2019, published in the journal Ecology and Evolution). Scientists with the Northwestern Bat Hub compared hoary bat population trends measured from 2003 to 2010 with more recent monitoring done from 2016 to 2018. The x-axis of this figure shows the years hoary bats were monitored with acoustic bat detectors, and the y-axis shows the probability of hoary bat occurrence at all monitoring sites. The more prevalent a species, the closer that probability is to a value of 1.0. Scientists pay attention to the upward- or downward – trend in those probabilities, and they roughly equate those trends with what is happening to the population as a whole. As you can see by the red arrow, what had been a stable population trend for the hoary bat from 2006-2010 is now a declining population trend for 2016 to 2018. Rodhouse et al. hypothesize that the likely reason for this decline is the concurrent increase in wind energy development in the northwest. With this downward trending signal, scientists and wildlife managers are beginning to meet and explore how they might partner with wind industry to further test this hypothesis and explore ways of avoiding and minimizing further impacts to the hoary bat.” . Graph courtesy of the Bat Hub Photo: Michael Durham/Minden Pictures, Bat Conservation International #Oregon #Wildlife #Bats #HoaryBat #batconservation

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According to the University of Michigan’s Biokids website, ‘the body of hoary bats is about the size of a fat mouse’. Its scientific name, Lasiurus cinereus, means ‘frosty or ash-coloured hairy tail’. This bat feeds on insects, ‘approaching the insect from behind, taking the rear portion in its mouth and biting off and swallowing this area of the insect, while dropping the wings and head.’

9. Vampire bat


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#batfactfriday The #vampirebat has inspired spooky monster movies and fear in many people, but they are harmless. They live in caves and abandoned buildings. They are social animals and groom each other while in the roost, forming strong bonds. They even aid sick roostmates by regurgitating and sharing food. There are 3 species of vampire bats; common, hairy-legged, and white-winged and all of them live in central and south America. They are hematophagous, meaning they only consume blood. Two of the three vampire bats feed on the blood of birds. The common vampire bat (pictured) feeds on the blood of mammals. They use thermoception to find a host and walk on the ground to feed from the animal. They have specialized physiology to digest blood as well as protect against bloodborne pathogens. They are listed as least concern.

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Vampire bats are the only mammals that can survive entirely on blood. They typically live in colonies of about 100 (although up to 1,000 bats can live together). According to National Geographic, a 100-strong colony can drink the blood of 25 cows in a year.

Bat migration, Zambia

About 10 million straw-coloured fruit bats migrate to a swamp forest inside Zambia’s Kasanka National Park between October and December each year. This is considered one of the world’s great animal migrations.

In celebration of Bat Week, the United States’ Bureau of Land Management ran a Facebook poll earlier this week to vote for the cutest bat in its Bat Beauty Contest.


Featured image: Instagram/ @aaacwildliferemoval_charlotte

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