If you thought sumo wrestlers ate too much, think again – at a sitting a bat can gorge almost a third of its own bodyweight. All bat species found in our geographic zone feed exclusively on insects, a big part of which are considered pests for agriculture and forestry.
There are about 1200 species of bats in the world, and they find shelter in a great variety of habitats. With regards to distribution on Earth bats come second best in the class of mammals – only rodents beat them to it. From exotic sites to nearby forests and caves, it is even possible that you have some unexpected tenants living in… your basement!
Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. Other typical characteristics include their exceptionally dynamic metabolism and their voracious appetite. Imagine a 60-kilogram lady going through 20 kilos of delicacies per day!
What do these voracious feeders eat?
Bulgarian bats, as well as about 70% of the species of bats worldwide, feed on insects. As predators they stand on the top of the energy pyramid and – together with birds – they act as one of the main natural regulators on insect numbers in the wild.
Imagine what would happen if these species disappeared!
Bats save farmers a lot of resources as they destroy many agricultural pests which they feed on. This diminishes the use of chemical pesticides, the need for their constant improvement to counteract the insects’ adaptation process, as well as the need to grow genetically modified plants.
Almost all of the remaining 30% of the bat species worldwide which do not feed on insects, actually feed on fruit and flower nectar!
Fruit-eating bats often bring the fruit far from the tree and thus distribute its seeds over a greater range. And, as their digestive system cannot digest all the devoured seeds, they excrete some of them in the guano. The seeds then sprout – sometimes tens of kilometers away from their ‘parent’ tree.
The nectar-eating species visit plants that flower during nighttime. They fly from one flower to the next, distributing the pollen stuck on their nuzzles.
So bats contribute to pollination and seed distribution of over 500 tropical trees and other plant species, some of which are of high economic value, e. g. the coconut palm. Much like insects and birds, bats play a crucial role in the renovation of the forests and in maintaining the balance of the ecosystems in which they live!