Bats are some of the most feared and misunderstood animals in the world. Through the centuries, they’ve been equated with witchcraft, evil, blood-thirsty monsters, and vampires, but bats are harmless victims of a bad rap. Thank you, Bram Stoker. Even the feared vampire bats, which hail from Central and South America, aren’t the blood thirsty demons they are made out to be. Well, they are blood thirsty, but they don’t attack and suck human blood.
Bats from around the world eat a variety of things from fish to nectar to frogs to fruit to blood. All of the bat species we have here in the mid-Atlantic region are insect eaters though.
Insectivorous bats use echolocation to zero in on their prey. By sending out high frequency sound waves that bounce off the insect, the bat is able to hone in on its exact location. They catch prey using their wings or the membrane between the feet. The insects are sort of “scooped” into the mouth.
Here in Pennsylvania, we have six year round resident species and three that migrate.
Year round bat species which include: little brown, big brown, tricolored (formally eastern pipistrelle), northern long ear, small-footed, and Indiana bats, are active in warm months, but seek shelter to hibernate through the winter. Migratory bats include hoary, red and silver-haired bats.
The only flying mammal, these acrobatic fliers can catch and eat over 500 insects per hour and often have several feeding sessions through the night. A large percentage of their diet include moths, grain flies and mosquitoes. Without bats, the mosquito population would explode spreading disease and driving picnics indoors. That’s much scarier than Dracula ever was.