That’s just batty!

You are driving me batty! He is as blind as a bat. They took off like bats out of Hades. One might expect bats to be crazy, blind Hellians. That’s just not the case, though, and the truth about these flying mammals can be even stranger than fiction.
Most folks, including this writer, don’t really know much about bats. According to the Nature Conservancy, there are about 1,400 known bat species, comprising about one fourth of the world’s mammals.  
Bats range wildly in size. Kitti’s hog-nosed bat is about the size of a bumblebee, while the flying foxes of Madagascar, Australia and Indonesia have wingspans of up to six feet! If you can’t sleep tonight for the visions of six-foot bats, just repeat, “they’re vegetarians,” over and over and you might find some peace.
As many as 13 kinds of bats can be found here on Daniel Island. They dart silently through the evening air catching insects, while onlookers hope that with each swoop there will be one less mosquito in the world.  
They can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes per hour, or one every 3 seconds, and can take in up to their body weight in insects in one night. Their annual U.S. pest control benefit to agriculture is estimated to be over $2 billion!  
Bats are not blind, but most have vision which is primarily adapted for low-light, nocturnal environments. Regardless, they catch their bugs largely by echolocation, using “sonar” frequencies outside the range of human hearing.  
There are other bats outside the U.S. that eat fruit or nectar and serve as pollinators as bees do, and even “vampire” bats that live off the blood of animals. The unwilling “donors” are primarily livestock or birds, but they are sometimes humans.
Speaking generally about the 40 or so species of bats in the United States, most live 20 to 30 years, and the females of reproductive age have one “pup” per year. This low reproduction rate, along with habitat loss and disease, is a factor in most of our bats now having some level of protected or even endangered status.  
A fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome has killed an estimated 6 million bats since 2006 and a great effort is underway to eradicate it. It is particularly devastating in areas where bats hibernate in caves and in large groups. In the Lowcountry they are more commonly roosting in trees and not hibernating for long periods.
This makes our area a safer place for species like the northern long-eared bat, which has lost about 90% of its population in the last two decades.
Bats are fast and can fly over 100 miles per hour according to the S.C. Department of Natural Resources (SCDNR) website! The “colonial” bat species, those that live and roost in large groups, or colonies, can have tremendous populations. Seasonally, up to 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas.  
This article just scratches the surface. Readers interested in more information about bats should search the SCDNR and Nature Conservancy websites. There is so much to learn!

Daniel Island Publishing

225 Seven Farms Drive
Unit 108
Daniel Island, SC 29492 

Office Number: 843-856-1999
Fax Number: 843-856-8555


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