Frequently asked questions
Bats are divided into two large groups – Megachiroptera (fruit bats) and Microchiroptera (insect-consuming bats). Fruit bats are found in the tropical and subtropical parts of Eurasia, Africa and Oceania. They feed on fruit or flower nectar. They do not emit ultrasounds, unlike insectivorous bats, for which ultrasounds are extremely important for their orientation when hunting insects.
There are 33 species of bats in Bulgaria out of a total of 35 which are found throughout Europe. This makes our country the richest in bat biodiversity on the continent. There are species of several genuses in Bulgaria, the most numerous being the genus of Myotis and Rhinolophus. According to the Bulgarian legislation, bats are protected species (they are included in Annex 3 of the Biodiversity Act). Killing, injuring, disturbing and catching bats is prohibited.
The insectivorous diet of bats is a natural controller of the number of insects. They feed on insect pests, thus saving large agricultural costs. Fruit-eating bats are the main vectors of plant seeds in tropical forests. They are also involved in the pollination of many plants. Thanks to them there are bananas, cocoa, avocados and many other plants.
Bats that are found in Bulgaria feed mainly on insects, but not blood. There are 3 species of bats in North and South America that feed on the blood of mammals or birds. They do not suck the blood, but lick it. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant that prevents the blood from clotting.
All bats feed on milk from their birth to six weeks of age. Female bats take care of their young until they are almost adults, as young bats cannot feed on their own until their wings are fully developed.
Most females give birth to one cub per year, although some species have twins.
For at least 10 species of bats in Bulgaria, forests are a place to feed and live, and can be found there throughout the year. During the summer, females form breeding colonies, where they give birth and raise their young. Some species use ash hollows on old trees or under their bark. Deforestation has a negative effect on the bat population because it destroys their natural habitats.
Guano is the excrement released by bats. It is a powerful organic fertilizer, rich in phosphorus and nitrogen. It has been used in the past to make explosives because it is rich in nitrates. In caves, it is at the heart of the food chain because of the food sources it provides.
Bats are found in cities – they inhabit the ceilings, joints and cladding of buildings, chimneys, ventilation facilities, basements, underground garages, under bridges, under window shutters etc. One of the main threats to them in the city is the renovation of buildings, as bats can remain closed in crevices. To avoid this, it is necessary to inspect the building before carrying out the renovation.
Bats hang upside down because this is an ideal position for a quick takeoff and also makes them invisible to predators.
Caves are the places where most bat colonies congregate, but also many bats live in cities, inhabiting different parts of buildings. There are forest species that live in the hollows of old trees or under their barks.
The bats that are found in Bulgaria are insectivorous, and one bat can eat approximately 1200 insects in one hour or about 6000-8000 in one night.
Bats orient themselves with echolocation, which is a process that uses a biological sonar in which sounds are emitted mainly in the ultrasonic range. By making these sounds as they fly, and by analyzing the echo, bats determine the distances to different objects. Ultrasounds are also used for communication between them and for individual recognition. Echolocation helps to assimilate new ecological niches, safety from predators and assimilation of hard-to-reach food resources – nocturnal insects, arthropods and small vertebrates.
Unfortunately, bats are extremely endangered by anthropogenic influences. The destruction of habitats, shelters, deforestation, cave tourism, as well as the increasing number of wind turbines, are the reason for the decline of bat populations worldwide.
Bats can use their energy efficiently by slowing down their metabolism during cold periods and periods of food shortages – a process called hibernation. During hibernation, the heart rate slows from over 400 to about 10 beats per minute and the body temperature drops to 0-10 ° C. In deep hibernation, bats can even stop breathing for more than an hour.
Some bats do not hibernate but migrate. The distance of these migrations varies from 50 to 2000 km.
Yes, bats are the only mammals that can fly. The difference between bats and “flying squirrels” (another mammal that humans mistakenly believe can fly) is that bats can actively control flying, while “flying squirrels” can only soar.