Bats about bats!

20 Oct 2008 Posted by in News and Events | 1 comment

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind, do not become entangled in human hair, and seldom transmit disease to other animals or humans.

In fact, bats are very clean – they groom themselves after every meal. Bats are often believed to be infected with rabies but all mammals can contract rabies. However, even the 0.5 % of bats that do have rabies, normally bite only in self-defence and pose little threat to the general public.

Bats are the only true flying mammals and are separated into two groups, insectivorous bats (Microchiroptera) and fruit bats (Megachiroptera). Insectivorous bats are smaller than fruit bats, and rely mainly on echolocation to find their prey. Fruit bats are larger than the insect-eating bats and use their sense of sight and smell to find the nectar and fruit on which they feed.

Insect-eating bats are the most important predators of nocturnal insect pests, which make them very useful to crop farmers. They can eat up to 10 times their weight in insects such as mosquitoes every night.

Fruit bats are required for the pollination and/or seed dispersal of more than 300 plants and 400 economically important products such as mangos, avocados, bananas and figs and they are the only natural pollinators of the baobab and sausage tree.

In the Western Cape, a number of bat species are regularly found roosting in roofs. These species may include the Egyptian free-tailed bat (Tadarida aegyptiaca) and the Cape serotine bat (Neoromicia capensis). Bats living in buildings do not cause structural damage or chew on wires or wood.

Bat populations worldwide are declining due to ignorance, pesticide poisoning, roost destruction, habitat loss, over-exploitation, and extermination. In order to help protect our bats there are a few things we can do.

Firstly, do not disturb bats where they live. Never keep bats as pets and never chase, catch or handle any bat. If you find a bat in your home, open all the windows and doors and allow it to escape without chasing it. Never use lethal poisons on bats. It is inhumane and will ultimately fail because the roost is still available for other bats. Allow the birds and bats to feast on insect pests in your garden instead of using lethal poisons to get rid of them. Some services will offer to catch and release bats far away, but bats have been known to return from up to 600 kilometres away. The only permanent solution is to seal the building and provide a bat house.

Kelly Spence
Student at Rondevlei Nature Reserve

First published in Vlei Talk – Spring 2008

  1. Joanna10-12-11

    If you hang tin foil at the entrance where the bats are getting in, this stops them from returning if you are really concerned about having bats around. I love having them, although the fruit bats at this time of year can make a mess!! 🙂

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