Bat Facts

I would like to bust a few of the common myths about bats and provide some bat facts…

  • Bats are mammals. A female will normally only have one baby a year. Female bats gather in maternity roosts in the summer.
  • Bats are the only true flying mammal. Flying squirrels and sugar gliders just glide. Bats have the same bones in their skeleton as humans, just in different proportions. The hand forms the wing and the fingers in it mean a bat’s flight is more agile than a bird. The Natterer’s bat can take a spider from a cobweb without touching the web.
  • The term ‘blind as a bat’ is totally inaccurate – bats can see like we can but mainly use a sonar system called ‘echolocation’ as it provides more detail in the dark. BBC Radio 4 broadcast a fascinating programme on echolocation this summer.
  • Brown long-eared bats have exceptionally sensitive hearing and can hear a ladybird walking on a leaf.
  • Many bats hang upside down from their feet; this means they can spread their wings ready for take-off before letting go. They can hang upside down for long periods, including when sleeping, because the tendons in their legs are pulled on by the weight of the bat, causing the toes to grip without using their muscles.
  • Over 500 plant species rely on tropical bats to pollinate their flowers, including species of mango, banana, cocoa, durian, guava and agave (used to make tequila). Some tropical bats also play a valuable role in seed dispersal.
  • There are over 1,000 species of bats in the world.
  • There are only 3 species of vampire bats. They are found in Mexico and South America. They are altruistic and will regurgitate some of the blood they have drunk for another bat in their colony who has not fed that night!
  • There are 18 species of bats in the UK and 14 of those have been found in Kent.
  • Our most commonly seen bat, the common pipistrelle bat, weighs as little as two 1 penny coins and is small enough to fit into a matchbox (or 200 of them can fit into a shoe box)!
  • Bats do not want to fly into your hair! All British bats eat insects and sometimes midges gather above us so bats may come close to catch them or just to investigate us.
  • A single pipistrelle bat can eat 3,000 small insects in an evening, whilst a colony of bats eats millions of insects over the summer months. In the US bats are recognised as providing a valuable pest control service for farmers.
  • British bat droppings are small and dry, they look like mouse droppings but bat droppings crumble to dust as they consist of insect exoskeletons. They are high in nitrogen and so are good for your garden!
  • In winter in the UK, when there are few flying insects to eat, bats hibernate in cool areas of buildings, underground sites and caves, or crevices in trees. Their body temperature can drop down to 2°C.
  • Some bats are very long lived for their small size. In 2006, a tiny bat from Siberia – a Brandt’s bat (a species we have in the UK too, which is similar in size to pipistrelles) set a new world record for being the oldest bat ever recorded, at least 41 years old!
  • Recording where we see bats helps draw up a picture of how they are doing. Kent Bat Group collects records.
  • Bat populations have fallen. We can help them with good wildlife gardening practices to encourage insects for them to feed on. You could create a pond or wetland feature, even a small tub-pond helps, plant night-scented flowers to attract moths, leave undisturbed areas for insects to overwinter, or make a ‘bug hotel’. Keeping cats in at dusk and dawn in the summer is also very helpful.
  • If you find a grounded bat it is likely to be in trouble. There is a national helpline to put you in touch with a nearby volunteer bat worker, 0345 1300 228 and instructions here.
  • If you have a roost in your house, you can also seek free advice from the helpline and must do so if planning building works.

Many more bat facts & information can be found here:

Alison Riggs, St Luke’s Environment Officer
Bat facts from the Bat Conservation Trust

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