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Bats

Introduction to Bats

Bats are the subject of countless myths and mistaken beliefs, and have acquired a sinister reputation which is quite undeserved. In fact they are mammals like cats, dogs, or humans: they are warm-blooded, they have fur, and they suckle their young with milk. Bats are the only mammals that can fly, although other species can glide from trees. The fingers of bats are specially adapted to support wings of skin.

Bats are nocturnal creatures, and it may be because of this that so many myths have become attached to them. But the truth is that bats never harm children or pets, they don’t carry disease, they do not get entangled in long hair, they will not damage paint or woodwork, and they are not blind. They are clean, gentle, and intelligent, and they perform a very useful service, devouring large numbers of insect pests such as mosquitoes.

There are 15 species of bat in Britain , all insect eaters, but their numbers are declining, and many of them are now rare and confined to Southern England . Pesticides and the loss of woodland, hedgerows and pastures have reduced the availability of insects for food, and sites for roosting.

Bat Roosts

Bats roost in buildings of all kinds, and in hollow trees. Individual roosts are not usually occupied throughout the year, as bat colonies frequently move, although they usually return to a particular site at the same time each year. Bats prefer clean, draught-free buildings, disliking dust and cobwebs. There are no risks to health arising from bat colonies in houses. Bat droppings are dry and powdery and crumble to dust if rubbed between the fingers, unlike mouse droppings, which are hard and remain in one piece. 

To encourage bats to roost, make access slots in the roof, preferably under the eaves at a gable end, near the highest point. Ensure that there is a gap in the roofing felt close to the entry holes, and brush away dust and cobwebs from the rafters. Nail a few panels of fibreboard onto the rafters just below the ridge to provide a sheltered area. Artificial roosting boxes can attract bats, especially in areas lacking alternative sites - such as conifer plantations. If you require information on bat boxes, please contact the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

Breeding

In the spring, females gather together in colonies known as nursery roosts, where each gives birth to a single baby in June. Naked, and blind at first, the young bat grows quickly, nourished on a diet of rich milk from its mother. By August it is fully weaned and able to fly and forage for itself.

Hibernation

Bats hibernate during winter, choosing caves, tunnels, and other cave-like places. Their temperature drops and their heartbeat slows, in order to conserve energy. They may wake up several times during hibernation, either to feed in milder weather or to move to a more suitable site, but too many disturbances waste energy and reduce their chances of survival. 

Nottinghamshire Bats

Nine species of bats have so far been recorded in the county. The one most commonly found roosting in buildings is the pipistrelle, our smallest British species. Brown long-eared bats also occur - they prefer older properties, including barns. The noctule is a tree-roosting species found in parks and woodlands, whilst Daubenton’s and Natterer’s bats can be found hunting for insects over our lakes and rivers. Rarer bats, only occasionally reported from Nottinghamshire, include Leisler’s bat and the serotine.

Bats and the Law

Bats receive special protection under The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It is illegal not only to kill or injure any bat, but also to damage, destroy, or obstruct access to any place that a bat uses for shelter and protection, or to disturb a bat whilst it is occupying such a place. Bats should only be handled by specially trained workers who hold a licence to do so. Very occasionally, a young and inexperienced bat may become trapped in a room in a house. If this happens, open outside doors and windows to allow it to escape. 

If you are interested in getting involved with the study and conservation of bats then please contact the Nottinghamshire Bat Group via the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust Office. 

You can also download and print this Bats fact sheet

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