Bats, an often-misunderstood animal, are fascinating mammals. There are more than 1,300 species, ranging in size from the tiny bumblebee bat to flying foxes, which have a wingspan of 6.5 ft (2 m). Unfortunately, some species are at risk of extinction due to issues such as habitat loss. Spreading the word about bats and how important they are to our ecosystems is vital. So, in celebration of bat appreciation day on the 17th April, we decided to do just that – here are our five fascinating facts about bats!
- Bats are the only flying mammal, with one species, the Brazilian free-tailed bat, able to reach speeds of 99 mph (160 kph). This makes them faster than birds!
- Many bat species navigate and find their way in complete darkness using echolocation. They emit clicks which bounce of objects in the environment. Variations in the received echo tell the bat about their surroundings, such as how far away an object is – the quicker the echo returns, the closer the object.
- Insect-eating bats can eat up to 1,200 insects an hour and between 6,000 and 8,000 a night! They have a very high metabolism so burn energy quickly.
- Bat droppings, known as guano, are an excellent fertiliser. In fact, it’s so good that guano was a huge industry, with Mexcian free-tailed bat caves raided for guano back in the Civil War – it was the biggest import out of Texas before oil!
- Contrary to popular belief, only three species of bat actually feed on blood: the common vampire bat, hairy-legged vampire bat and white-winged vampire bat. None of them have a love for humans though, with the common vampire bat feeding mostly on cows (and the occasional human); the hairy-legged vampire bat and white-winged vampire bat prefer to snack on birds.
Find out more about bat appreciation day here!