What do bats eat?
As nature’s only flying mammal, bats are something of a conundrum. This, and the fact that they usually only come out at night, means that many people know little or nothing about these creatures and their habits. Some people consider bats as nothing more than pests, or worse, something to be frightened of, partly due to the links between them and vampires. However, bats are not only an incredible animal, they remove many animals you may consider pests from your garden! Here is what they eat:
From one nocturnal creature to another, bats primarily feast on moths. Seeing as though many people are desperate to rid their properties from moths, you could imagine a bat as a living, flying mothball. Whilst moths are the main source of food for most bats, it is not the only thing they will eat. Bats hunt on the fly, forgoing their very poor eyesight and instead relying on their incredible ability to echolocate. This involves the bats producing high frequency sounds at a consistent rate, and using the echoes the sounds produce to ascertain where solid objects are and how to avoid them. This technique is used on the hunt for any insects a bat will eat. These include mosquitos, which provide a tasty snack for the bat. This is mutually beneficial, as it ensures not only that your property is less inundated with mosquitos, but the bats are well fed too, allowing them to continue with their jobs.
A few American bat species, mostly those living in tropical areas, are omnivorous. This means that they not only rely on insects for food but also flora-based foodstuffs. This predominantly consists of fruit growing on trees, but can also involve the drinking of nectar and pollen. In doing so, bats become a vital pollinator, inadvertently carrying pollen from plant to plant on their bodies in order to access the precious nectar inside flowers. This allows plants to reproduce, sustaining the entire ecosystem in which we live in. After all, every food chain begins with plants.
A few of the largest bat species have sharper teeth, meaning they may seek to eat larger prey to sustain themselves. This usually consists of rats and mice, meaning that having a resident bat in your general area can reduce nuisance rodent populations. However, animals such as lizards can also be the victim of bat predations.
What this has shown is that bats are opportunistic omnivores, or in other words, are not fussy eaters. It is this opportunism that makes it so beneficial for us to coexist with bats, as they can help our battle with nuisance rodents and insects. Even more importantly, bats’ love of nectar helps to sustain plant life in the country. In particular, the organ pipe cactus, synonymous with the deserts of Nevada and Arizona, is especially reliable on bats. In fact, we would not have tequila if it was not for bats, as the drink is made from the agave plant, which relies on bat pollination.