ME: You know how
they emit these really high-frequency sounds to help them find things in the
dark? Turns out that not only do they
catch bugs in mid-air, but they can tell from the way the sound bounces off the
bug whether it’s the kind of bug they like to eat or not. They take about ten
snapshots a second of what’s around them, just using sound.

SCOTT: How do we
know that bats can tell what kind of bug it is?

ME: You can actually
train bats to do little tricks in exchange for mealworms. In the laboratory you can put them on a
perch and train them to pick one object over another in exchange for food—like
a soft thing versus a hard thing, a big thing versus a little thing—and once
they’re trained to do that, it’s pretty easy to do tests to see how accurately
they can distinguish between one bug and another.

SCOTT: Won’t they
bite you if you put them on a little perch in a laboratory?

ME: Yeah. Joe Szewczak—that’s the guy at HSU—says he
gets bitten all the time. It’s not a
big deal, though—you just have to get a rabies shot. But actually, bats don’t really have very high rates of
rabies. Natural populations of bats are
less prone to rabies than other mammals like skunks. And it’s not like they go
after people and bite them. They just
fly around at night and eat bugs. If a bat ever comes near you, it’s probably
because you’ve got a lot of bugs swarming around you.

SCOTT: I’ll remember
that next time I’m outside at night in a swarm of bugs.

ME: And when bats
have babies–

SCOTT: Yes, how do
bats have sex?

ME: Oh, I didn’t ask

SCOTT: You didn’t ask?

ME: It’s none of our
business how they have sex. But back to the babies. Bats, being mammals, give birth to live pups that are about half
the size of an adult bat. It’s like
having a 50-pound baby. And do you know what the mothers feed them?

SCOTT: Bat milk?

ME: That’s
right. They nurse them until they’re
about six weeks old and they can fly around and eat bugs on their own. And in one species of bat, the males can
actually lactate, too.

SCOTT: The bat-men
make bat milk?

ME: Amazing, huh? Bats don’t make nests, they just find warm places to roost. You can put up a bat house for them, but
they would rather stay in an attic or under the eaves of a roof. But they know the bat house is out there,
and they’ll move into it if they need to.

SCOTT: We are not
getting bats, if that’s where you’re going with this.

ME: Well, they’re
very small, and there’s plenty of room up in the attic.

SCOTT: I think this
concludes the fun facts portion of our evening. And if I go upstairs and find bats hanging upside down from our
Christmas decorations, I’m going to know who let them in. If bats need a place to stay, they’re sleeping with the chickens, not us.


  1. A great post for the Halloween week…I love bats and wish they would move into this perfectly lovely bat house we placed high up in a tree! I wonder where they do live around here?

  2. Ditto on having a nice bathouse that the bats have thoroughly snubbed – for 2 years now. At the bat websites you can read stories of people watching the bats return to the house in the early morning, keeping track of the species, all manner of fun I ain’t having yet.
    Well, at least I got to see the famous bat bridge in Austin when I was there for our gardenblogger fling.

  3. Bats are interesting creatures. Apparently their are people that know much intimate information about bats. After reading a particular article I was left wondering if the researchers hung out watching bats mate or if they captured movies then watch in privacy.
    I sure hope they were taking x-rays to compare size…Gloria

    The contribution of sexual selection
    to brain evolution
    has been little investigated.
    Through comparative analyses of bats,
    we show that multiple mating by males,
    in the absence of multiple mating
    by females, has no evolutionary
    impact on relative brain dimension.
    In contrast,
    bat species with promiscuous females
    have relatively smaller brains
    than do species
    with females exhibiting mate fidelity.
    This pattern may be a consequence
    of the demonstrated negative
    evolutionary relationship between
    investment in testes and investment
    in brains,
    both metabolically expensive tissues.
    These results have implications
    for understanding the
    correlated evolution of brains,
    behaviour and extravagant sexually
    selected traits.

  4. How funny that I read this today, what are the odds? This weekend my wife and I noticed wet marks in my t-shirt, couldn’t figure out what they were from–I was actually lactating! (Not cool, very distrubing obviously.) We looked it up online and it can actually happen to human males when they are under an especially great deal of stress. Something to do with hormonal imbalance and muscle tension in the chest.

    And if you bought any of that I want some big time candy. Trick or treat.

  5. Stress does funny things…

    … but really, I just wanted to say, “Me three!” to Gail and Susan. Perfectly lovely bathouse I have on the southern side of my house, built to BatCon specifications… and no bats now for the past two years. Sheesh. I KNOW that I have plenty of bugs, so what gives?!

  6. About those bat houses. I have seen a couple eventually get residents but many stay empty for years. If you have a garden and insects flying around lights at night you probably have bats already. Many urban bats live in old trees sometimes singlely under loose bark or behind a shutter on the upper windows or in some other crevice. Some are so tiny they are only .07 ounces and less than an inch long.
    While trying to fing a picture of a bat in a crevice I found this great story with photo on NPR.
    Check it out, its adorable!!!


  7. The solution to enticing bats to your bathouses is to find someone that has a “bat in the attic” problem and collect some bat droppings (like a large coffee can full) and sprinkle them beneath the tree you hung your house on. Bats are drawn to the smell of other bats. Otherwise expect it to take years and years to get them to find your boxes.

  8. Couldn’t help noticing the right-hand sidebar today “Ads by Google” –

    “ultrasonic Bat Removal: Silently and safely get rid of those scary bats. Guaranteed”.


  9. I love bats. Did a posting on my blog a couple days ago ( I found this interesting picture of a bat house in Iraq taken by a Navy Officer during her tour, it is huge and beautiful and I am utterly fascinated by the fact that Iraqis build such things for bats.

  10. Bat Conservation International has a page of links to articles about how to succeed with bat house occupation.There are some very good tips about getting 8 to 12 hours of sun in northern climates, painting outside darker color,and in hot climates adding ventilation slots for mid-day summers excess heat.Lots more with real data from successful and non-successful bat house owners….even with bats it is all about location …Gloria

  11. Sometimes bat houses don’t work because certain ‘likes’ aren’t followed.
    Bats don’t ‘Take off’ in flight like birds do, they drop from their roost. The house has to be at least 12 to 15 feet from the ground for the room to drop. Oh, and face it east. They won’t use it if it’s faced where it will get blazing sun all day. Can you imagine how hot it would get inside a little box faced south?!

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