All About Bats

At Harper Asprey Wildlife Rescue, we rehabilitate many bats each year and of varying species. If you find an injured bat - using gloves - put it in a dark ventilated box on a towel and bring him into us. A bat on the ground is in danger.  

These tiny bundles of fur and bones are living around us in a secret world that we only ever get glimpses of. There are over 4,000 mammals on our planet and amazingly 25% of these mammals are bats yet even more amazingly 25% of the total bat population is under threat of extinction. Bat populations have declined dramatically in recent years. During the 20th-century, bat numbers dropped so much that several species of bat are now seriously threatened. At least 12 species have already become extinct. It is ridiculous and shameful that in the 21st century we are still wiping out animal species. We are poor custodians of our planet and poor conservationists when it comes to bats.    


These intriguing winged cutie's are the world's only true flying mammals. They are one of the most diverse mammal groups on the planet, second only to the rodents in the number of species. They are on every continent except Antarctica.     

They are intelligent, social mammals that can live for up to around 30 years. Bats sleep in the day and feed during the night, locating their prey by echolocation. The distances traveled to feeding sites very considerably, both within and between species. While some species feed close to their roost site, like brown long-eared bats which normally forage within 1 km of their roost, others fly long distances. Noctules have been recorded flying more than 26 km to feeding areas. Bats use a number of foraging sites every night, moving between them to locate areas for high insect densities.  

Bats range in size from the tiny bee sized bat to larger fox sized cutie's with a wingspan of 2 metres. Of the 1,007 species, there is only one species that loves blood and that lives in the jungles of South America. During the darkest part of the night, these vampire bats emerge to hunt. Sleeping cattle and resting horses are their usual prey, but they have been known to suck on a few drowsy people too. The bats drink their victim's blood for about half an hour. They don't remove enough blood to drain their host, but their bites can cause infection. They strike from the ground landing near their victims and then approaching on all fours...scary. As liquid feeders, they have few teeth but the ones they have are razor sharp. The amazing heat seeking nose points it towards the warm blood flowing beneath the skin so they can sink their teeth in with precision. Baby vampires feed not on blood but on milk just like other bats. They cling tightly to their mothers, even in flight, and consume nothing but her milk for about three months. Pesticides are the biggest killers of bats. Bats eat insects and the poisons build up in their bodies and it kills them through Bio-Magnification.

Do not use pesticides. You just don't know who you are killing.  

Bats are nature's best insect pest control, able to consume massive quantities of bugs. Organic farmers are researching and using bats as pest control for crops instead of using pesticides, setting up bat houses in their crop fields. The corn ear moth larvae are some of the most costly pests for corn farmers and they are also a favourite meal of the Mexican Free-Tail Bat. The use of Free-Tail Bats is now eliminating the use of tons of pesticides in the corn fields of the U.S. and their droppings are an excellent fertilizer.

You can actually help promote the use of bats instead of pesticides by buying organically-grown vegetables.

There are 17 breeding species of bat in the UK with several vagrant visitors. All bats in the UK are relatively small ranging from our smallest, the pipistrelle, which weighs around 4-5 g (0.18 oz) and has a wingspan of 20 cm (8 in), to the 40 g (1.4 oz) noctule with a 40 cm (16 in) wingspan.  


Alcathoe, Barbastelle, Bechstein's, Brandt's, Brown long-eared, Common pipistrelle, Daubenton's, Greater horseshoe, Grey long-eared, Leisler's, Lesser horseshoe, Nathusius' pipistrelle, Natterer's, Noctule, Serotine, Soprano pipistrelle and Whiskered. Pipistrelle numbers are estimated to have dropped by about 70% during 1978-1993. They are fantastic to have around and they eat lots of the flying insects that sometimes irritate us. They are estimated to each eat 3,000 mosquitoes a night and bats mainly feed on the adults of various pest moths including cutworms, chafers, wireworms and flies such as fever fly and crane fly.  


Bats are not rodents and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation in your loft space.

Bats do not build nests and do not bring bedding material or food into the roost.

Bats do not drink blood in the UK.  


Life Expectancy: They can live up to 32 years

Size: Head and body length: 3.3-8.2cm, Wingspan: 18-45cm, Weight: 4-40g.  


Some prefer hollow trees, others caves, some use both at different times. Bats shelter in buildings, behind hanging tiles and boarding, or in roof spaces. Most bats are seasonal visitors to roosts in houses. They are unlikely to live in that roost all year round, although they return to the same roosts year after year.  






All British bats eat insects, including midges, moths, mosquitoes and beetles, so they are a natural pest control. Each species has its favourite types, hunting them in its own special way. Most are caught and eaten in mid-air though it is sometimes easier to hang up to eat larger prey. Bat droppings are dry and do not purify, but instead crumble away to dust  


Bats are night creatures, seen only dimly at dusk. Their large wings make them look bigger than they really are as they swoop down after insects. They are our only true flying mammals and are really fascinating to watch. They live in groups or colonies and are caring of each other. Bats are clean and sociable animals and spend many hours grooming themselves and each other and huddle together when resting. They are creatures of habit and feed and drink at the same places nightly. They have really sweet faces and of over 1,000 species only three drink blood and they live in South America, plus it's cows blood, not ours.  


Bats will mate during the autumn and sometimes into the winter when they hibernate. The females then store the sperm and do not become pregnant until the spring when the weather gets warmer. Pregnant females gather together in maternity roosts to have their young and these may be the same group at the same site each time. Pregnancy lasts between 6 to 9 weeks depending on the species and can be influenced by availability of food and climate. Females usually give birth to a single baby each year which they keep close to them and nurture. Bats are very sensitive to disturbance during the maternity season and may abandon their young if this happens. For 4-5 weeks, the young are suckled by their mothers until they are old enough to fly and they begin to venture out from the roost to forage for food.   Rabies The risk of catching bat rabies from UK bats is miniscule. Rabies is transmitted through a bite or a scratch from an infected bat, or by saliva from an infected bat getting into an existing cut or coming into contact with a person's mucous membranes. It is not spread through urine or faeces. Therefore, you are at no risk if you do not handle bats.  

Conservation status 

All UK bats and their roosts are protected by law. Since the first legislation, introduced in 1981, that gave strong legal protection to all bat species and their roosts in England, Scotland and Wales, additional legislation and amendments have been implemented in all countries within the UK. For all countries of the UK therefore, the legal protection for bats and their roosts may be summarized as follows: You will be committing a criminal offence if you:

1. Deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat.

2. Intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost or deliberately disturb a group of bats.

3. Damage or destroy a bat roosting place (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time).

4. Possess or advertise/sell/exchange a bat (dead or alive) or any part of a bat.

5. Intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost.    




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