International Bat Week
Bat Week is an international celebration designed to raise awareness for the conservation of bats. Bats are simply incredible creatures that are vital to the health of our world and economy.
Although we may not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night – eating tons of insects, pollinating flowers, and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.
Because bats fly around in the dark, roost in hidden locations and many avoid artificially lit places, these small creatures are often out of sight and out of mind.
Bats are mammals in the order Chiroptera, which means ‘hand–wing‘ in Ancient Greek. They are the only mammals capable of sustained flight.
Around the world, there is an astonishing 1,400+ species of bat. The UK houses around 18 resident bat species and they account for a quarter of our mammal species.
Despite their rich biodiversity, UK bat populations have crashed in the last century, namely due to building work that results in the loss of roosting sites and habitats.
How do bats hunt their prey?
Bats hunt by echolocation but, as this mesmerising footage shows, different methods for capturing prey are used by these beautiful nocturnal creatures.
This stunning slow-motion footage shows how bats use echolocation to find water. We know how bats echolocate to hunt insects, but this is the first study to show how they recognise large, flat objects like ponds. Moreover, by testing young bats that had never encountered a pond or river before, the researchers showed that bats seem to have a built-in ability to recognize these important features of their environment.
How to help bats near you
Here are some ways you can help encourage and protect bats in your local area.
1. Get gardening
Attracting more insects to an outside space will benefit bats. Conservationists recommend adding night-flowering plants like evening primrose, night-scented stock and nicotiana to your garden to attract moths and other night-flying insects.
Pesticides should be avoided at all costs, as they act to poison insects and the bats that eat them.
Garden features such as small ponds will bring in even greater numbers of insects and all sorts of other wildlife.
2. Turn the lights off
The saying “blind as a bat” is fundamentally incorrect; bats actually have good eyesight in low-light conditions and they dislike bright light. Some species will simply avoid well-lit areas altogether, and lighting can cause the abandonment of both roosting and feeding areas. Lights can also break bats’ commuting routes.’
Cutting down unnecessary lights outside will help solve this problem.
3. Make lofts bat-friendly
A common misconception is that bats roosting in buildings are a pest. However, unlike mice, bats don’t build nests or cause any damage to their roosts.
Avoid using sticky insect strips. These are terrible for bats – they get stuck to them and die a slow, often painful death. Bats also roost right up next to beams, so avoiding using toxic wood treatments which are harmful to them.Steph West – Biodiversity Training Manager – Natural History Museum
All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are protected by law, but that doesn’t mean if you have bats in your house that you can’t use the loft or undertake building work. You can find detailed guidance on living with bats and what to do if you need to do work on a property that may have bats roosting in it on the Bat Conservation Trust website.
All bat species, their breeding sites and resting places are fully protected by law – they’re European protected species.https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bats-protection-surveys-and-licences
4. Keep cats indoors at night
In the UK the number one predator for bats is actually domestic cats. Keeping cats indoors at night, particularly around dawn and dusk when bats are emerging and returning to their roosts, will help protect them.
Domestic cats are amazingly skilful predators, but that can have significant consequences for our wildlife.
During bat surveys, I have seen cats actively stalking bats, and once sadly saw a single cat kill almost an entire colony of bats as they emerged from a roost before it could be stopped.
Volunteer bat carers often find that they are frequently called out to bats that have been injured by cats. Sadly, these often don’t survive due to the bacterial load in cat saliva.Steph West –Biodiversity Training Manager – Natural History Museum
5. Join a local bat group
One of the best ways to find out more about bats is to join a local group and get involved with bats in your local area.
Local wildlife groups are always going to be the best way that you can help support endangered species, and learn from other people with similar interests.
Bat walks with experienced bat-lovers is a great way to find out about different species and learn to identify them.
The data from these surveys, and others that you can learn to carry out yourself through the National Bat Monitoring Programme, help us to understand how bat species are responding to changes in the environment and how we can conserve their populations for the future.
6. Become a seed spreader
Seed bombs (balls) are one of the single best ways to promote the growth of different wildflowers within a patch of land that might just need that little boost.
The growth of different flowers should also attract insects which are vital for bats, as it’s their main food source.
It’s such a simple task that you only need 4 things to get started
You will need:
- Seeds such as borage, cornflower, night sceneted stock and evening primrose
- Powdered clay – this is to protect the seeds from birds
Getting your hands dirty
- In a bowl, mix together 1 cup of seeds with 5 cups of compost and 2-3 cups of clay powder
- Slowly mix in water with your hands until everything sticks together
- Roll the mixture into firm balls
- Leave the balls to dry for a few hours in a sunny spot
- Plant your seed bombs by throwing them at bare parts of the garden and wait to see what pops up!
7. Adopt a bat
One of the leading UK’s bat conservation charities has an ‘Adopt a bat‘ subscription.
What do you get when you Adopt a Bat?
- An Adopt a Bat pack containing:
- A personalised welcome letter
- Adoption certificate
- Species leaflet
- A colourful newsletter and poster
- An adorable cuddly bat buddy to call your own
- A Daubenton’s bat pin badge
- Subscription to our Adopt a Bat Update sent twice a year (Spring/Summer and Autumn/Winter)
In time with Bat Week, we have been hard at work, creating some bespoke resources for you to use at home and in the classroom in order to help partake in Bat Week.
Take a look below at some of the resources that I’ve picked out to help you get started teaching your class during Bat Week.
Or click below to view our full range of Bat resources.
Thank you for reading
Thank you for reading my blog on International Bat Week – it is so important that we don’t lose these beautiful creatures as they are so incredibly vital to the health of our ecosystem.
If you have any other tips to share, feel free to leave a comment below.
Don’t forget to tag us on our social media with any photos from your class celebrating Bat Week.