Sunday, September 04, 2011

"Think Not I Am What I Appear" by Lord Byron

Our calm household quickly turned into chaos last night.

Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear were in our usual evening cuddle-down spots when Papa Bear yelled, "There's a blankety-blank-blank bat in here!!!!!"  Right then, this vulture-looking thing flew toward my head, veered over to Papa's, out of the den and into the living room, and kept repeating this flight pattern.

Lucky thing our one-man rescue squad was on hand, or the chaos might have mushroomed into a terror situation.  His choice weapon was a terry cloth towel that he started switching and swatting and missing his moving target.  The faster the swat, the faster the bat flew.  From where I sat, the comedy element was wild.  A grown man, in his boxers, fighting to save his ladies from a killer bat, and Baby Bear absolutely frozen with fright.  I couldn't have paid for better entertainment.

A couple of hours later when my head hit the pillow, a silly thought kept me do bats mate?  Do they lay eggs like birds? I'd never heard of bat eggs.

Well, first thing this morning I browsed the web to see what I could find.  What I came up with was a whole bunch of bat facts........

  • Bats are warm blooded, they nurse their babies with milk, and have fur.  
  • Bats have a thumb and four fingers, just like people.
  • They use their wings for more than flying.  They can wrap their wings around insects or fruit to hold it while eating.
  • There are about 1,000 different species of bats. 
  • Scientists have found evidence that bats have been around for 50 million years, if not longer.  Fossils from back then look very much like the skeletons of bats today.
  • Bats eat at night and spend their days sleeping in caves or in tree tops.  They are very social and usually sleep together in large groups.
  • Baby bats are called 'pups.'
  • Bats spend a lot of time hanging upside down, and this is called roosting. Hanging like that puts them in a good position for takeoff, because bats can't launch themselves into the air from the ground.  Their wings don't produce enough lift to take off from a dead stop, and their hind legs are so small and underdeveloped they can't run to build up enough speed to take off.
  • Bats smell, hear, taste, feel, and see just like people do.
  • Bats can live for 20-30 years.
  • They mate and give birth once a year, usually to a single young.  Twins and triplets have been known, but are pretty rare. 
  • Bat births take place in their usual hanging position, but the female is able to create a pouch with her tail membrane to catch her baby as it emerges. The umbilical cord can also act as a sort of maternal bungee cord to prevent the tiny newborn bat from falling to the ground.  (This answers my question!)
  • Each night bats consume huge numbers of insects, many that otherwise would attack farm crops.
  • Bats eat mosquitoes, carriers of malaria.
  • If it were not for bats, the harvest of tropical fruit, such as bananas and pineapples, would decrease by 60%.
  • A single small brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in an hour.
  • Only three species of bats, all living in Latin America, are vampires.  They do feed on blood, but they lap it like kittens rather than sucking it up as the horror movies suggest.  Even the vampire bat is useful to us enzyme in their saliva is among the most potent blood-clot dissolvers known and is used to treat human stroke victims.
  • Bats are vital pollinators for our plant kingdom.  
  • Except for the extreme desert and polar regions, bats have lived in almost every habitat on Earth since the dinosaurs were here.
  • Bats have long played an essential role in Mother Nature's system of checks and balances.  Their loss today could adversely affect the health and stability of our environment and life as we know it.
  • Cold winters force bats to migrate or hibernate to caves or abandoned mines where they stay for up to six months, surviving only on stored fat reserves.  How they find their way over the long distances remains largely a mystery.  It appears that visual things like mountain ranges and other landmarks guide them.  Their valued information about how to find small cave entrances and other obscure sights appears to be passed on from generation to generation.
  • Bats are more closely related to humans than they are to mice and rats.  The structure of a bat's wing resembles the structure of the human arm.
  • Researchers have seen cases where a bat is ill and isn't able to hunt for its own food.  Other bats from the colony will bring food back for it.  Scientists really don't understand the dynamics of bat colonies yet, but they are definitely complex, tight-knit social communities.
  • Bat poop, called guano, is the highest quality natural fertilizer. It contains more nitrogen and phosphate than any other natural or artificial fertilizers. 
  • Bats flying over your head are not trying to attack you, and they don't really want to get tangled up in your hair.  When they feel trapped, like the one in our house last night, they are frightened and are only trying to free themselves. 
  • The use of chemicals in pesticides has depleted the number of insects for bats to feed on, and these chemicals also harm the bats themselves.
  • Places that the bats like to roost in are being destroyed to make way for human structures and roadways.
  • Bats need our help.  We are scared of them because of the way they've been represented to us in movies and on t.v.  This is making it hard for bats to get the help they need to survive.   
Like everything else......we fear that which we don't understand.