In the publication “A Wild Australia Guide Bats” Dr Les Hall talks about how Bats are an amazing group of animals – they are the only mammals to have mastered true powered flight, yet they remain some of the most misunderstood and persecuted creatures in the world. (Photo courtesy of KBCS Inc.)
I certainly concur with this, although like most people it takes some personal experience to truly understand this.
In December we noticed that we had a colony of Micro bats living under the house. I took this picture of the bats during the day; you can see them on top of each other packed tightly between a couple of rafters under the floorboards of our house.
When we first noticed them (by seeing some droppings on the ladder we store there), we were concerned.
Not having any understanding of bats except for the usual misinformation in the media we contacted our Land for Wildlife program coordinator to get some advice. I am so glad we did as I was surprised to learn how beneficial these tiny creatures are.
Microbats are mammals that belong to the family order called Microchiroptera meaning “little hand-wing”. Like humans, Micro bats are warm-blooded placental animals and are covered with fur and nourish their young with milk produced by the mothers. Bats share the same sense as we do in smelling, hearing, seeing and feeling, they have the added benefit of flight and an exceptional system of navigation and prey detection called echolocation.
Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. Although their body plan is similar to other mammals their body has been modified for flight. Their wings are hands the same as our hands only the bones are elongated and connected by a membrane which is made up of two layers of skin enclosing elastic fibres, blood vessels and nerves.
We do have a real problem with mosquitoes and biting midges around our house and we hadn’t been aware of the importance of Micro bats in keeping these populations under control. Of course once we knew we had our own small colony we realised why there had been a huge reduction in the mosquitoes and midges around the house. Apparently Micro bats can eat their weight in insects each day which was a real bonus for us.
Unfortunately this was not to be a permanent camp for these little creatures, it appears that it was a maternity colony and by about mid January most had left. We are hoping that they find their way back to us again this year and will be watching for their return.
On the other hand we have always been aware of the flying foxes that feed in our garden, but again I didn’t understand their benefits – only the annoying fact that they got to my fruit before I could. After an information session provided by our local Bat Care organisation, I am now determined to continue to provide a safe environment and graciously share my fruit!
Of course having a 15 acre wooded property there is also ample nectar in the flowering eucalypts which of course the Bats are an integral part of their pollination thus keeping the forest alive.
Coincidentally on the day of the information session we had cut down the very last Cocos palm on our property. When we moved here a few years ago we had about 50 of these scattered around and had started removing them because we thought they were ugly and of course not native to our environment. We are now so pleased we have done this as we have discovered they pose a huge threat to the flying foxes. Cocos palms are now seen as an environmental threat here in Queensland and are a listed weed.
We are also removing all the barb wire from our fence lines and ensuring that when we do net our fruit trees it is in accordance with the guidelines you can find on the Bat Care website.
With this new found understanding we are now looking forward to seeing how we can happily co-habitate with these amazing animals.