Doing your bit for bats

A guest post this week on The Badgers Eye from Ross Stevens, who draws our attention to those  wonderful creatures of the twilight, sadly in decline.


Do your bit to help bats in the UK

Bats, bats, bats
Covered in a veil of mythology, bats appear to have a lot to answer for when it comes to people’s understanding of them. Rather than going around sucking blood , in many parts of the world, bats are the ones who need a bit of a helping hand.
There are 17 bat species resident to the UK, and all of them are in gradual decline. You’d be surprised to know that unlike seagulls, bats are more closely related to humans than they are to rodents. There are two sub-species of bats and all of the UK bats are of the microchiroptera type, which have developed echo-location to navigate their way around and hunt for food.
The most common bat you’ll see in the UK is the Pipistrelle. They’re merely 3 to 5cm long and weigh in at about 5 grammes. With sizes like that and their tendencies to only eat very small insects, the bats are more afraid of us humans than the other way around! And there is a good reason for this, which we’ll go into with the next section…
Why are bats on the decrease?

Bats eat around 3,000 tiny insects a night, and rely heavily on damp, warm areas of land to find these tasty morsels. They’re a great indication of areas where nature is healthy and that the creatures habitats nearby are thriving. But these thriving areas can be sensitive to destruction, where high levels of light pollution will change the behaviour of the bats, and also the habits of their favourite food, the moth. If light pollution makes the moths and flies change their habits then it makes it more difficult for the bats to find their next meal.
Light pollution is far from the main contribution to their decrease though. There are many large, poisonous elements being put into the places where bats may roam, such as insecticides, the increase in farming practices and the destruction of their roosts by building and road development work.
How you can help
Anyone can help, be it in the smallest or biggest of ways. Without much time or any cost, dedicating an area of your garden to wildlife and planting night-scented flowers is a great way to create a micro-habitat to help nearby bats.
To go that one step further you could install a bat box, they’re very simple to construct with a few pieces of wood and nails if you’re that way inclined. If not, inexpensive pre-built ones are available. If you see a bat on the ground, it is almost guaranteed that it needs immediate assistance.
Bats should not be directly handled though. If a bat requires help, place a box upside down on top of the bat and slide card underneath it. Another way to handle it is to wrap the bat in a towel and then place it in a box, with a shallow container of water. Move the box to a dark, quiet place and call a local bat helpline.
Ross Stevens

For more information on bats and bat surveys, visit http://www.totalecology.com/bat-survey.htm

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