If you were asked to name a spooky animal, bats would likely be near the top of the list! But what makes bats so spooky? Is it because they come out at night, have sharp fangs and big beady eyes? Yeah, that’s a start! But should we be afraid of bats? What about vampire bats? Do they really drink our blood? Let’s find out what bats really eat!
What kinds of bats are there?
Microbats are small bats, about the size of your hand that live in caves, hollowed out trees and buildings. This is the most common kind of bat and they can be found all over the world except for the colder regions at the poles.
- Vampire bats
Vampire bats are actually a species of microbats but are very different than any other type of bat. Unlike any other bat, they live off blood for both food and water. They can also run, walk and jump which they use to hop on a potential prey. They are only located in Mexico, South and Central America.
How do bats hunt for food?
Microbats use echolocation to find their food. They come out at night and fly through the air emitting high pitched sounds that bounce off of insects and bounce back to the bat so they can locate it. They can fly around for hours at a time collecting insects from the air.
They do not use echolocation; instead they have an amazing sense of smell and can locate food. Research has shown that some bats, like the spear-nosed bat will forage for fruit together to help increase the odds of finding food sources. They found that the bats would alert other bats when they have found food and follow each other to the food source.
- Vampire bats
They come out at night to look for food and they also use echolocation, but they are not looking for mosquitos and moths. Vampire bats live off blood from animals like horses, cows, pigs and birds. They do not savagely attack their prey like we may think; many times the host does not even know they are there. They may land on a sleeping cow, make a small incision that the cow can’t feel and drink the blood, lapping it up like a kitten, not sucking the blood. Vampire bats have a heat-sensing nose that can help it locate the best place on an animal to find access to their blood. They can walk or run using their legs, thumbs and wrists to sneak up on an animal as well!
What do bats eat?
Megabats like the fruit bat and flying foxes live mostly on fruit. They may eat figs, bananas, guava or papaya. Some megabats also eat pollen and nectar.
- Vampire bats
Vamoire bats live solely on the blood of other animals. They rely on all of their nutrients from blood. They also have very little fat reserve so they cannot go more than a couple days without eating or they will die.
A complete list of what Bats eat:
- Chinch bugs
- Blood (only the vampire bat)
Do bats eat upside-down?
Bats will eat food upside down, but there’s a larger reason bats are so often found hanging upside down.
First off they are out of reach of many predators, they can easily fly away from this position if need be and it is relaxing. Their claws actually latch on and don’t require energy to hold that position and because they are small their hearts are able to pump the blood throughout their bodies without all the blood rushing to their heads. This is also the position that some bats hibernate in. Finally, there’s the simple fact that unlike birds, bats have trouble launching themselves into the air. By dropping from branches upside down, bats are able to fly without needing to take off from the ground.
Are bats dangerous to humans?
The biggest threat to humans is not having a vampire bat suck your blood (they don’t suck remember). It is very rare for a human to be bitten by a vampire bat. The biggest threat to humans is that some bats carry rabies, a viral disease that can be fatal. Other animals like raccoons, foxes and coyotes can carry rabies as well as pets like cats and dogs, but most pets have received vaccinations for rabies so it is rarely spread from a domestic animal bite. If you have been bitten by a bat it is advised to seek immediate medical attention.
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