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There are no less than 40 species of bats in the United States that prey only on tiny flying insects and bugs. These small flying mammals are the world’s most significant insect predators and every year they feed on millions of insects and tiny bugs, helping us keep their population under control.
Bats are voracious eaters and just one little brown bat that is approximately the same size as a tiny house mouse can eat up to 8 grams of insects in a single night. This doesn’t seem like a lot of food, but it’s a whole lot in relation to the size of the bat as most of these bats measure between 2 and 4 inches in length.
Bats are extremely important to the ecosystem as they work harder than any other animal on the planet to keep the insect population in check. For several nights in a year, millions of bats fly out in large groups at night and hunt down millions of tiny insects. A single brown bat will eat about 600 to 1,000 mosquitoes, fruit flies, dragonflies, gnats, moths, wasps, crickets, beetles, flies, ants, true bugs, and other mosquito-sized insects in only an hour, and some bats will eat up to 100% of their body weight every night they go out to forage. During the hunt, bats will trap insects in their wings or tails before proceeding to grab the insect with their mouths.
These animals have very good night vision but they mostly rely on their special echolocation skills to capture insects in the dark. When bats go out to forage, they use high-pitched sounds and ultrasonic sound waves called echolocation to find their prey. They emit pulses of a very high-frequency sound of over 100,000 waves per second which are inaudible to humans. With this, bats are able to detect objects in their environment with great precision, and this is an excellent tool in a bat’s hunting arsenal.
It enables them to identify prey, know exactly where they are, and zero in and capture these insects without being detected. Bats hunt in complete darkness, yet are excellent hunters with the ability to accurately detect and capture so many insects in an hour. But not all bats eat insects, there are over 1,200 species of bats around the globe and although 70% of them feed on insects the remaining 30% do not eat insects. The smaller percentage of bats that do not feed on insects eat a variety of other things including fruits, plant pollen or nectar, small aquatic animals such as fiddle crabs and small fishes, and tiny animals such as frogs and lizards.
And finally, there are vampire bats who feed on only the blood of certain animals such as horses, cows, and sheep. Bat species that feed on plant pollen and nectar play a very important role in plant pollination as they fly from plant to plant in search of food. Despite their small size, bats are incredibly interesting animals that have a unique lifestyle. They are formidable insect predators and excellent night hunters. It enables them to identify prey, know exactly where they are, and zero in and capture these insects without being detected. Bats hunt in complete darkness, yet are excellent hunters with the ability to accurately detect and capture so many insects in an hour.