Tuesday, July 29, 2014


We have had a couple bats flying above our back yard 
sanctuary at dusk.
Yes, we are excited about having another misunderstood creature in our garden.

My bat encounters have been limited.  We see them while camping.  And  
while visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Texas, I was all atingle when they took me to see a million bats emerging from their roost under the Congress Ave. Bridge. This is the world's largest urban bat colony.  My sister knows what I like!

Also, on my list of bat experiences, I have loved the illustrated bats in Brian Lies "Bats" books...Bats at the Beach, Bats at the Library, and Bats at the Ballgame.  (A new one, Bats in the Band, will be released in August.  I will be adding it to my children's books shelf.  And I will be reading it to my grandchildren.)

Like bees, bat populations are in decline.  And like bees, they hold vital ecological roles.  A little knowledge about these mammals will help calm the fears that myths and scaremongers perpetuate.

Nearly all the bats in the continental United States and Canada are insectivores.  They are too busy hunting and eating flies, mosquitoes, beetles and cockroaches to want to fly into someone's hair.
A single bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour.  

Of the over 1,200 species scientists now acknowledge, only 3 species are vampire bats. All 3 of these species live in Latin America. 
These blood eating bats do not "suck" blood as Hollywood would show it, but lap it as a cat would drink its cream.
Protein in a bat's saliva prevents the host's blood from clotting.  The properties found there have lead to positive use in medicine.

Coincidentally, my niece and her husband had a bat in their yard last week too. They live in Texas.  
This bat was hanging upside down, which is normal, but it was, abnormally, rather close to the ground.
They wisely called animal control.  Bats can have rabies.  And just as any  wild animal should not be handled, you should not touch a bat.
Most bat bites occur while a sick or injured bat is being picked up.

Bats play a crucial role in insect control, in pollination, and in the spreading of seeds.  They are the only mammal capable of true flight.  Their wings contain the same bone structure as a human hand.   Their velvety skin stretches across these bones like the fabric and ribs of an umbrella.  The thumbs cling to surfaces when the bat alights.  The sensitive touch-receptors on the surface of their wings are also found on human fingertips.
Bats roost upside down, because the bones in the hind legs cannot support their body weight. 

A female bat usually has only one pup a year.

 The females congregate together to bear and raise the young.  The pup weighs 25% of its mother's body weigh.  This is proportionate to a human mother giving birth to a 31 pound baby.  Ouch!
On top of that, the mother gives birth while hanging by her feet, and she must catch her baby with her wings as it drops.  The pup drinks its mother's milk from birth and up to 6 months.  A young bat cannot forage on its own until its wings are fully developed.
Where's dad during all this?  He's hanging out with his buddies in some man cave.

Any of you familiar with Brian Lies' illustrations have seen the baby bat being carried by its mother while she is flying.  Pups do ride along with their mothers.  When mom is flying, the pup holds on with its teeth.

In insect eating bats, a highly sophisticated sense of hearing is used for navigation and finding prey.   Fruit bats do not use a echolocation system because fruit doesn't fly move.  Fruit bats have excellent eye sight and a good sense of smell to find their food. 
 But, insectivores emit sounds that then bounce back to the bat.  In a split second, the bat can determine the size, distance, speed at which an object is moving.  Even the texture of an object is known from the sound waves created.

These gentle and intelligent mammals, that live for more than 20 years, deserve our appreciation and respect for the many ways they help us humans.
I hope you can enjoy seeing some bats soon, be it in a book or in the twilight sky.  

t.t.f.n. ~ Carol

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