If you would like to save our bat friends, this post can help. Bats get such a bad press. They rarely give people rabies (if they did in the UK, the only person at risk would likely be a bat rescuer – someone who came into contact with bats on a regular basis, knows the risks and takes precautions). They don’t drop in your hair and suck your blood. And of course now we have more people frightened of bats, as it’s believed COVID-19 may have transmitted from a bat or a pangolin (due to cruel Chinese wet markets, a horror that needs to be urgently stopped):
Bats in England are endangered, and it’s illegal to disturb one. If you find an injured bat, contact Bat Conservation Trust (this site has tons of advice and links to your local bat group). If planting night-scented flowers to help bats, make your garden safe for pets, to avoid toxic flowers and mulches etc.
We will learn to listen to nature. Or we will become extinct, and we will deserve it. Paul Kingsnorth
Of course, there are bats the world over. But most bats are native to our gardens. They are endangered, as like bees, they depend on pollination to survive, and loss of habitat and other issues are also grave concerns. So let’s learn a bit about bats. And finish with batty experts, who can help you set up a bat house, and rescue bats.
Trust in your senses. Don’t be afraid of the dark. Get a grip. Enjoy the nightlife. Advice from a Bat (courtesy of Your True Nature)
A Few Facts about Bats
Bats are (like us) mammals. But they are the only flying mammals on earth. They are not blind, but they don’t have good eyesight. A species of Mr Magoos! So they mostly navigate by echo-location, which is a pretty cool thing to do. Although bats sometimes eat small mammals, most here eat an enormous amount of insects each night, and some fruit (the common pipistrelle bat weighs less than a £1 coin).
Bats in the UK are protected, so you must not disturb one, not even in a bat house. They are unusual in that they sleep upside down. They do this because it’s more comfortable – and easier for them to fly away from predators, should they need to.
Things Bats Don’t Like
- Cats. If you live with feline friends, don’t attract bats to your garden.
- Wind turbines. Most wind turbines have fast-moving blades, which can injure bats and birds, and also affect their echo-location, so they sometimes fly into the blades. Modern bladeless turbines (like tall wands that ‘vibrate’ to produce energy) sound safer, here’s hoping.
- Roads. Loss of habitat and roads puts bats in danger, as they use echo-location to fly very low. They may be helped by inventions used to stop the 5000 owls killed on roads each year from low flight – this free guide asks town planners to build a 2m screen of trees and shrubs, which forces hunting birds to fly higher, so avoid cars. Owls (like swans) often fly into overhead wires, campaigners want cables insulated and bird diverters installed, which again may help bats.
- Fracking (extracting shale gas) may be loved by Trump, but it’s awful for wildlife. Not only is it dangerous and polluting (and can cause cancer to nearby people). It’s also noisy and affects bat habitats, as they use echo-location (sound) due to poor eyesight.
Things Bats Do Like
The best way to help is to plant organic night-scented flowers, rich in pollen. But be careful what you plant if you live with animals, as many are toxic to them. See make your garden safe for pets. Also avoid cocoa/pine/rubber mulch & fresh compost near pets, use humane safe slug/snail deterrents and no-dig gardening methods to protect earthworms and other garden friends. See safer alternatives to netting for wildlife. Many plants (inc. yew & oak trees) are toxic to equines.
Bats have lost most of their natural habitat (like trees to roost in). You have to be careful with wildlife homes (bees can die in bee-houses as they are difficult to clean and get overcrowded, leading many so covered in mites, they can’t fly). Bat Conservation Trust & Bat Conservation International both have expert advice, and Bat Management suggests having it face the morning sun near trees (not near bright light, too much shade or thorny vegetation – with nearby fresh water). You are not allowed to disturb bats.
How to Help an Injured Bat
The world has lots of brilliant batty experts. If you find a poorly bat, you could call your local wildlife ambulance, but it’s best to call Bat Conservation Trust, as they are their experts know everything (including how to safely transport a bat – involving hole-punched shoe-boxes and a tiny container for water, but to avoid drowning (they suggest a milk bottle cap or furniture castor). Their army of volunteers watch bats, record bat sightings, rescue injured bats and release them back to the wild. They are literally batty about bats!
Daubenton’s Bats are also called our ‘water bats’. Bats are the world’s only flying mammals, and these ones live often near fenlands and wetlands, and can be seen skimming the surface for insects at night. They eat up a lot of our midges, scooping them up with their feet and tail. In winter, they hibernate in caves and tunnels. In the wild they can live over 20 years.
Books about Bats
- The Bat is a funny illustrated guide to bats, that will have you up all night reading! With a talent for sleeping upside down, bats live all over the world (not Antarctica). Learn about the 1200 species, how they find their way around and where they hibernate.
- Flying Blind is a book by writing professor Don Mitchell, was was approached by a US biologist to track endangered bats on his farm. At first thinking of them as ‘flying rats’, he soon changed his mind and even persuaded neighbours to join him on nightly meditations.
- Bat Citizens is by animal welfare campaigner Rob Laidlaw, who always writes good books for children: educational and fun. In this book, he persuades youngsters to become ‘bat citizens’ and get involved with conservation projects around the world. Teaching of their habits and habitats with a bit of bat biology thrown in, this book will enthral the most nervous reader!
I’m Not Scary is an endearing tale for children of a friendly bat who just wants to share some cake and his baking skills. Raahat Kaduji loves creating gorgeous art inspired by nature, wildlife and the English countryside. Gently comforting, when other animals see Bat’s shadow at their window, they are terrified and think he is a monster. But he just wants to share his baking with some friends.
Look up, and you see things flying
Between the day and the night;
Like a glove, a black glove thrown up at the light,
Wings like bits of umbrella.
Creatures that hang themselves up like an old rag, to sleep;
And grinning in their sleep.
A Picture Book about Bat Echolocation
Fiona the Fruit Bat is a picture book about bat echolocation, designed to inform young people about the wonderful world of bats, and how to help them. This sweet and fun book for children ages 3 to 7 is written by a scientist, who works with bats every day.
It’s time for Fiona the fruit bat to take her very first flight, but she’s scared. How will she fly, when she can’t see in the dark? Mama just says ‘listen’. But how will listening, help her to see? Then she hears a mysterious sound from deep in her cave. To find out what’s making that noise – and to finally fly – Fiona will have to unlock a secret, hidden inside herself.
This book explores the fascinating science behind echolocation (and has backmatter pages with information on fruit bats). Ther is also a comforting messge, to help children who are scared of the dark. There is also an underlying message on overcoming the fear of new experiences, and finding the courage to listen to your own voice.
Dan Riskin is a biologist, who studies short-tailed fruit bats. He has spent decades researching the biomechanics of how bats move – he is obsessed with bats! The book is illustrated by Rachel Qiuqi, who was born in Shanghai and now lives in Ontario, Canada.