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Totally batty for bats!

 

Photo by Paul Hockensar licensed CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

You may have heard some stories about bats and vampires. Don’t listen to them — bats are super-cool animals! So let’s set the record straight with some batty facts about bats:

Bats are the only mammals that are able to fly!

flying bat with wings extended

Photo credit: Michael Pennay via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-ND

There are LOTS of animals that are mammals — like elephants, cats, dogs…even people! But bats are the ONLY mammals that can fly. Even flying squirrels don’t really fly — they soar from tree to tree. But bats have wings and use them to propel themselves through the air, and that makes them very special.

Bats are as blind as…bats

huge group of bats flying out of a cave

Bats coming out of a cave for evening dinner in El Maviri, near Los Mochis, in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. (Wikimedia/Tomascastelazo/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bats are nocturnal (say "knock-turn-all"), meaning they are awake at night and asleep during the day. You would think that being a nighttime animal, they would be able to see well in the dark, but that’s not true. Bats actually see very poorly, which is why they use echolocation (say "eh-koe-low-kay-shun") to get around. This means that bats make noises (squeaks and beeps) and listen for the sound to bounce back, which tells them how close they are to other objects. Cool!

Bats sleep upside-down

bat hanging upside down

Photo credit: Lance McCord via Visual hunt / CC BY-NC-SA

It doesn’t sound very comfortable, but dangling by their feet upside down is totally normal for bats. Hanging upside down is important for bats because they can’t take off and fly from the ground — their legs are just too short for a running start. So bats fall from wherever they are hanging and swoop into flight. Some bats even do a kind of flip when landing and taking off! Fun!

Bats usually only have one baby in a litter

a bat with her pups

A mother bat with her pups. (Photo by Josh Henderson licensed CC BY-SA 2.0)

A baby bat is called a pup, and mama bats usually only have one pup in a litter (sometimes two), but they can have more than one litter during a breeding season, which is usually in the spring. That means a mom bat could be taking care of several pups at a time. A pup is born without hair, and spends the first two to six months hanging from its mom by its claws and teeth. Ouch!

Bats love to stay clean

bat licking itself

Photo by Wade Tregaskis licensed CC BY-NC 2.0

Don’t expect to see tiny bathtubs in a bat cave. They stay clean by licking themselves, just like cats do! Apparently it’s their favourite thing to do, when they’re not eating or sleeping. Although it would be super-cute to see a bat taking an itty-bitty bubble bath, right?

Bats eat bugs!

bat eating a grub

Photo credit: Gilles San Martin via Visual hunt / CC BY-SA

Gross, but true — and thank goodness they do! A bat can eat more than 600 bugs an hour (that would be like a person eating 20 pizzas in a night!), which means there are fewer bugs like mosquitos to bother us. But not all bats eat bugs — some of them are frugivores (say "froo-jah-vohrs"), and those ones eat mainly fruit. Yummy!

Bat poop is considered valuable

bat poop

A bowl of bat guano (poop) used as fertilizer. (Photo by Susy Morris licensed CC BY-NC 2.0)

Bat poop, also called guano, is full of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These chemicals are amazing at helping plants grow, so in some parts of the world, it is collected and sold as super-awesome fertilizer.