As it’s Halloween, we googled ‘are bats’ to take a looky at Google’s suggestions in an effort to dispel some myths!
- Are bats blind?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: If you’ve been telling people they’re ‘as blind as a bat’ then, in a round about way, you’re actually be telling them they have pretty good eyesight. All species of bat can see, some better than others, but they are by no means blind. Bats very much rely upon echolocation to detect insects in the dark of night, but they also use their eyes to hone in on their prey. They are also crepuscular, meaning they are most active at dawn and dusk. During these hours, there is still ample sunlight – and by logic, bats would need adequate eyesight to see in these lighter hours.
- Are bats mammals?
Short answer: Yes
Long answer: by definition mammals are warm-blooded animals that give birth to live young and nurse said live young with milk. Female bats typically give birth to one pup each year and will look after their offspring for a number of weeks, allowing them to suckle milk for nourishment, until they learn to fly. Mother bats form a group and roost together in a maternity colony, some bats will even look after other female’s abandoned orphan should something happen to their mother. Cute.
- Are bats protected?
Short answer: Yes – in some places
Long answer: In the UK all bat species are protected by law (the Wildlife and Countryside Act) and it is illegal to deliberately kill, capture, injure a bat, or to disturb or destroy their roosts. This legislation also extends to Europe. Failure to adhere to these laws can land you a hefty penalty – a maximum of £5,000 fine per incident or per bat or a 6 month prison sentence.
Bats play a key role in ecological functioning through pest control. In some parts of the world fructivorous bats are vital pollinators of many fruit species such as mango, banana, cocoa, guava, and more. The smallest bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) is able to consume 3,000 insects per night. They face many threats such as habitat loss and fragmentation, predation (much of which comes from cats!), building and development, and major road networks. With bat populations declining globally, they’re a species worth protecting.
- Are bats dangerous?
Short answer: No
Long answer: Bats are categorically not dangerous. They are simply not interested in humans and like many other animals, would only bite if threatened or under attack. Even the notorious vampire bat would rather feed on blood from cattle than you. You’re less tasty. The major concern with bats and safety is regarding rabies. Although many countries have managed to eliminate rabies (UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Belgium, Netherland, and more). Bats are rabies vector species and highly mobile so those handling bats on a regular basis would be wise to get vaccinated. If you’re not handling bats on a regular basis – rabies is not something to lose sleep over.
- Are bats rodents?
Short answer: No.
Long answer: In the worlds of National Geographic ‘bats are no more related to rodents than humans are’. Despite a resemblance, they are a few key physiological features that separate them from rodents.
- Bats are nocturnal, whereas as rodents are more active during the day
- Bats use echolocation, rodents rely on their sense on smell
- Bat forelimbs have evolved webbing to form wings enabling them to fly, rodent forelimbs are specialized for digging and holding items.
- Bats do not have the characteristic rodent teeth – these are the incisors that continue to grow throughout the rodent’s lifetime.