Bats are truly fascinating creatures. They are mammals that can fly, some look like dogs, some like cats, and none like Batman. They live in caves, sleep upside down, and come out in the darkness and locate their food using sound. But this brings the question; What do bats eat? Their food is as fascinating as the animals themselves.
Bats eat a variety of food. There are over 1,200 species of bats all over the globe and their diet consists of insects, fruits, pollen, nectar, meat, and even blood. Let’s take a look at what type of bat eats what and which bats are present in North America.
An overwhelming majority of bats eat insects. These insects include all the small pests. Almost 40 types of bats in the US eat just insects and nothing else. And their favorite food? Mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are a real threat to humans as they are the carrier of some of the most dangerous diseases. So having natural pest control like bats is always a win-win; the bat gets food and humans don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars for pest control.
A small bat can eat up 1,000 mosquitoes in one sitting (or flying). In a colony, there could be a million bats! So imagine the pest cleansing they’d be doing. But mosquitoes are not the only thing they eat.
Bats also eat moths, beetles, grasshoppers, termites, wasps (thank God), roaches (again, thank God), flies, etc. Getting rid of these insects not only helps us from diseases but also helps in the preservation of crops and other useful material.
Bats also feed on nectar, just like bees do. The species of bats have a specialized tongue that is very long (longest in the body to tongue ratio in any mammal). The bats put their tongues inside the bulb of the flower, suck the nectar in, and lo, the bat has had its meal.
The best thing about these nectar-feeding bats is they also pollinate the flowers in the process of feeding. Again, a helpful thing to do for both humans and the environment. There are about 500 types of plants that rely on pollination by bats. Aren’t bats awesome?
Bats that eat fruits are called frugivores and they are equally helpful for our environment. Bats eat a variety of fruits ranging from mangoes, bananas, dates, avocados, guavas, etc. This fruit-eating habit also supports seed dispersal, allowing plants to spread around. Over 300 species of fruit plants depend on bats for reproduction.
An interesting fact; Bats also pollinate agave found in Arizona. Agave is used to make those tequila shots you down in the bar. So the next time you get tipsy with your boys, think of the bats that helped you get drunk.
At some point in the evolutionary timeline, a section of insect-eating bats diverged from their general diet and started feeding on meat. Scientists are still trying to find the reason for this switch, but there is no consensus.
These meat-eating bats have stronger jaws, different skulls from their vegan and insect-eating counterparts. Don’t worry, meat-eating bats don’t hunt zebras and deers. They usually prey on smaller animals such as lizards, snakes, frogs, even smaller birds.
Some bats such as the Yellow-eared bats eat other bats! As the general theme of this article was going, highlighting the benefits of bats’ feeding habits, there are no benefits for this species. Well, a bat’s gotta eat, what a bat’s gotta eat.
Yes, it is true, some species of bats feed on the blood. These bats are called vampire bats and no, they do not wear tight leather vests with no shirt and have pale skin. Vampire bats do not feed on human blood, although they can if they get a chance. But most of the time, they stick to cattle and other wild animals.
For the people of Canada and the US, you don’t need to worry because there are no swarms of vampire bats looking for blood. These bats are found in Mexico and South America. However, there have been reports of some vampire bats crossing the borders. But don’t panic, they try to avoid humans unless they are carrying rabies. The bottom line is, don’t let bats get inside your house.
This concludes the article about bats feeding habits. In summary, bats eat insects, meat, fruits, nectar, and blood. A majority of the species eat insects. Bats are usually harmless for humans but they can be a carrier of some disease. If you liked this article, how about taking a peek at some other interesting articles? Here are some related articles that you should check out:
- Can you let cockroaches live in your house to get rid of bed-bugs?
- Why don’t we have large insects like we did millions of years ago?
- Here’s why snakes don’t hibernate. They do something else.