10 reasons you don't need to be scared of bats

27 October 2016

There's plenty of reasons we should be friendly, not fearful, of bats.

While bats have long been associated with Halloween, vampires and guano, PhD student Joanna Haddock believes there's another side to bats that we should know about.

1. There are more than 1,000 species

They specialise in eating different things; insects, fish, small mammals, each other, pollen, nectar, fruit, and even blood!

2. They have excellent vision

The saying “blind as a bat” is actually misplaced! – flying foxes have night vision, but can also see better than humans during the day.

3. They are great parents

Some vampire bats leave their young in a maternity cave to go foraging at night. When they return with the crowd of other parents at sunrise, they can find their pup in amongst millions of others by smell alone.

Flying foxes are great at just hanging out.

4. They have unique skills

They are the only mammals capable of true, self-powered flight.

5. They're better than mosquito spray

Insectivorous bats (bats that eat insects) can consume up to eight times their own body weight in insects every night, and they feast on mosquitoes – the more they eat, the less you get bitten.

6. They're familiar with Sydney traffic

Flying foxes may travel up to 100 kilometres in one night… and, because these bats don’t have echolocation, they use our landmarks to navigate (including the junctions on the M2 and M5 in Sydney!).

7. They're just like Marvel's Daredevil

Insectivorous and some carnivorous bats use the amazing power of echolocation to see in the dark – they can detect a tiny insect from metres away by producing calls and listening to how they echo back. These calls are mostly way too high in frequency for us to hear. 

Some bats are incredibly small. Photo by Gilles San Martin

8. Some of them are really small

One of the smallest mammals in the world is a species of insectivorous bat – it is found in Thailand and is called Kitti’s Hognosed Bat. A fully grown adult weighs less than a five cent piece.

9. They are the subject of puns

To help populations of urban bats, most of which are sadly decreasing, you can buy a bat box to go in your garden for them to live in. It’s called a “Bat”chelor Pad!

10. They have a surprisingly long lifespan

Normally, big things live longer… whales, elephants, pine trees. But most microbats live for longer than 20 years! For mammals that are so tiny (sometimes as small as 4 grams fully grown), this is an evolutionary oddity!

Joanna Haddock is a PhD candidate in the Integrative Ecology Lab within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Follow her on Twitter and her website for more batty insights!

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