Day 11: Continuing a theme from the past two years, Close Up, where I throw a spotlight on a given species and delve a little deeper. These Close up days will be on Fridays for 2021!
Today’s Close Up will be all about the only true flying mammal: the bat – focusing on the common pipistrelle. Ever since I spotted a bat swoop in circles around my urban yarden last year, I have wanted to learn more about the species I think it was. Though I haven’t a bat detector I have plumped for the most common bat species in the UK – the common pipistrelle.
The UK has 18 bat species. The common pipistrelle (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) is a formidable predator eating up to 3,000 insects a night, despite being the smallest species of bat in the UK. The common pipistrelle weighs around a pound coin and is small enough to fit into a match box! Being small has it’s advantages as pipistrelles feed in a wide range of habitats. They are active between April and October and come out of their crevices, tree holes or bat boxes 20 minutes after sunset. Being nocturnal they rely on echolocation to find their prey. These frequencies, being higher than the human range can be picked up with devices such as bat detectors. Pipistrelles can be heard on frequencies ranging from 45 to 70kHz.
The breeding season is between July and September thereafter females form maternity colonies and give birth to one live young in June/July. The pup only stays with its mother for a month before they are able to fly and after six weeks they become fully fledged.
From November onwards pipistrelles go into hibernation or torpor. They achieve this by lowering their body temperature which reduces their metabolic rate, surviving on stored body fat. It’s only when the outside temperature increases that they awake to forage on newly emerged insects.
The only zoonotic disease that some UK bats carry is rabies which is why if you find a sick bat, do not touch and contact the National Bat Helpline on 0345 1300 228.
In conclusion, bats are wonderful pest controllers. Some need our help as population numbers have dwindled due to changes in agricultural practices and the loss of habitat. You can help by planting flowers that will attract insects and putting up a bat box, they are relatively inexpensive and The Wildlife Trusts have a fact sheet on how to build you own, here.
Have you seen bats where you live? Have any roosting in your home?
Thanks for reading, and stay wild!