30th October 2008
Bats are often portrayed as terrifying bloodsucking fiends, particularly around Halloween, but they're really gentle, captivating creatures. Few people realise that bats provide us with vital clues to the state of our environment - the more bats there are, the healthier we know our ecosystem is. Although the hordes of plastic bats in shop windows might suggest otherwise, at this time of year bats are keeping a low profile as they look for suitable sites to hibernate for the winter ahead. Ghosts, goblins and vampires Vampire bats do exist - there are three species, all found in Central and South America. But they are nothing like the enormous, blood-crazed monsters portrayed in horror fiction! About the same size as the UK's noctule bat, vampire bats feed mainly on cattle and other livestock. They make a small graze on their host's skin to encourage a flow of blood, then lap it up with their tongues, consuming about a tablespoon of blood each night. An anti-coagulant in their saliva stops the blood of their host from clotting - a gruesome fact, until you discover that the anti-coagulant has been used to develop a treatment for stroke patients. There are even some species of false 'vampire bats', so-called because they were originally thought to feed on blood. One such species is the ghost bat, Australia's only carnivorous bat. This pale-coloured bat feeds on small animals (including other bats) and has great spiritual significance to the Australian Aborigines. Another appropriately-named bat for this time of year is the little goblin bat, which can be found across Africa, South America and Australia. Join BCT and help the UK's bats Vampire, ghost and goblin bats are a world away from the 17 species of bat found in the UK, from the tiny pipistrelle, weighing in at around 5g, to the greater mouse-eared bat, which is still smaller than the palm of your hand. Bats make up a third of UK mammal species. Sadly, bat populations in the UK have suffered severe declines over the last fifty years due to destruction of natural habitat and loss of the insects that bats love to feed on. This why all British bats are now protected by law - and why we need your help. The Bat Conservation Trust (BCT) is the only national charity solely devoted to helping bats. Joining BCT is the ideal way to show your support for bats. By becoming a Member, you will be directly helping to protect bats and their habitats for future generations to enjoy. Plus, if you join online in October or November, you can take advantage of our Halloween membership deal and get 16 months membership for the price of 12!
Halloween bat facts
- Bats are the only mammals that fly. They are warm-blooded, give birth and suckle their young. They are very sociable animals, living together in colonies.
- Bats are long-lived (some can live for up to 30 years), are intelligent, highly mobile and more agile in flight than most birds.
- Bats fly and feed in the dark, which they are able to do by producing a stream of high-pitched calls and listening to the returning echoes which give a distinct 'sound' picture of the surroundings. This is called 'echolocation'.
- Bats in the UK eat only insects, which they catch in flight or pick off water, foliage or the ground. When there are few insects, bats hibernate in cool parts of buildings, caves or hollow trees.
- There are over 1000 species of bats and only three are species of Vampire.
- There are no Vampires in Transylvania .
Batty Halloween activities
Bored of carving the same old Halloween pumpkin year after year? It sounds like you need to create your very own bat pumpkin! How to make a bat pumpkin and loads more fun Halloween activities can be found here.
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