Who swung the heaviest bat
Bat Night: Bat Facts
Monitoring is difficult
Bats are found on every continent apart from Antarctica. There are over 1,200 bat species worldwide, in Europe and Western Turkey there were over 44 species in 2014. All 25 bat species are protected in Germany under the Federal Nature Conservation Act. There are no exact numbers on the population in Germany. "So far there is no comprehensive monitoring", explains bat expert Sebastian Kolberg from the Naturschutzbund Deutschland (Nabu). The night activity makes it much more difficult to study bats compared to other animals.
Life in caves and crevices
In Europe, a rough distinction is made between cave-dwelling species and those that inhabit crevices. The cave-dwelling species spend the day, for example, in hollowed-out tree trunks in the forest or in parks. The crevice-dwelling species are found more frequently in residential areas, but are also found in the forest.
Ultrasonic waves and echolocation
Bats are nocturnal. To find their way around in the dark, they emit ultrasonic waves that are reflected from objects. These echoes are then picked up and processed by the bats - experts speak of "echolocation". Bats can fly around buildings and trees or locate prey.
Bats are reproductive artists: towards the end of summer they mate in so-called swarm and courtship quarters. "The sperm survive hibernation in the sex tract of the female and fertilization then takes place in spring", explains Sebastian Kolberg from Nabu. On average, bats give birth to one cub per year, which is then raised by the female together with other mothers and their young.
Although bats avoid most natural predators due to their nocturnal activity, many bat species are endangered or even threatened with extinction. Nocturnal birds of prey such as owls and owls are natural enemies, but humans are more dangerous for bats. The animals die when pesticides are used in agriculture and forestry. "Wind turbines are also a threat to bats"says Sebastian Kolberg from NABU. In an extrapolation by the Leibniz Institute, there is talk of up to 250,000 bats that could die in Germany every year from colliding with rotor blades or from internal injuries caused by the differences in air pressure in the vicinity of the rotor blades. "However, such extrapolations have to be viewed with caution because monitoring is difficult here too.", so Kolberg.
In Africa, bats and fruit bats are considered to be carriers of dangerous viruses such as the Ebola virus. And in Germany too, many people have reservations about possible infections, because bats can transmit rabies. In the past 40 years, however, there have been only four confirmed cases in Europe of rabies being transmitted to humans through bats. "In the event of direct contact, however, we still advise you to only touch bats with appropriate protection such as thick gardening gloves"says Kolberg.
Bat and vampire
The bat as a nocturnal animal with sharp canine teeth that likes to dwell in dark caves has long stimulated people's imagination. Even in the Middle Ages, devils and demons were depicted with bat-like wings, in Bram Stoker's classic "Dracula" the vampire Count Dracula is transformed into a bat.
In fact, there are blood-sucking bats: vampire bats like the Desmodus rotundus (common vampire) feed exclusively on blood. People are rarely one of their sources of blood. So far, three blood-sucking species are known that occur on the American continent.
Most bats only feed on insects. "In very rare cases it can happen that a water bat catches even small fish from the surface of lakes or rivers"says Sebastian Kolberg. However, the menu usually tends to include butterflies, arachnids or beetles. A bat can catch up to 4,000 insects per night.
Benefits of bats
Could the bats, as insect eater, not also be used for pest control and thus replace pesticides? According to a study by Bat Conservation International published in the USA in 2015, the benefits of bats for farmers in growing corn could be nearly a billion dollars worldwide. "On the one hand, bats eat pests, but according to new studies they also influence their behavior through echolocation, for example when laying eggs"says Sebastian Kolberg from NABU. In order to enable agricultural synergies, however, further research has to be done in any case.
Bats are losing more and more of their natural habitat through energetic renovation of buildings or intensive forestry. Replacement roosts such as a bat box can help. If you also want to make your garden bat-friendly, you can, for example, provide varied and night-blooming planting. Because it also attracts insects at night. "This is how you set the table for the bats, so to speak"says Sebastian Kolberg. For those who want to experience the animals live and learn more: On Saturday and Sunday (25th and 26th August 2018), Nabu is offering many excursions to the "Batnight" - the night of the bats.
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