Bats are Vital to our Ecosystems - help give them a home

Canal & River Trust
Wednesday, 23rd November 2016

Roosting places for bats are in decline due to sites being destroyed on waterways and in woodlands, as well as the increased use of pesticides. They are vital to our ecosystems, so the Canal & River Trust have launched the 'Give a Bat a Home' project.

Bats are hugely important within our ecosystems and over the last century, their traditional roosting sites have been destroyed.

They mostly roost on the edges of canals, rivers and in nearby woodlands. Bats eat a lot of insects, which helps protect us from diseases, and play a major role in the survival of owls. Bats also make essential flora more sustainable. Just over this summer, we worked out that, a nathusius' pipistrelle bat has eaten ONE MILLION midges, in addition to countering disease and protecting agriculture.

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The huge increase in the use of pesticides has meant that bats don't have enough to eat or safe places to sleep.

'Give a Bat a Home' is a new project, that provides local spaces for bats to roost along the 2000-mile Canal and River Trust waterway network. It forms part of our first ever national bat monitoring scheme, which helps to protect the species by working with local community groups to install roosts and monitor increases in bat populations.

England and Wales's canals and rivers have transformed from industrial transport systems to open spaces and wildlife corridors where people can connect with nature. Waterways provide the framework to house endangered species, like bats, and the public are not always aware of this.

'Give a Bat a Home' was proposed by the Canal and River Trust national environment team to utilise our unique landscape's potential to safeguard endangered species. There has never been a scheme that has monitored the population of bats connected to the waterways. As well as its impact on the species, it provides an opportunity for local groups, including sailing clubs, bat groups, anglers and Canal and River Trust volunteers, to be trained to help install and monitor the roosts, increasing their awareness and knowledge of natural heritage within their local community.

Any bat checks - which would include the opportunity for volunteers to learn how to handle bats - would be carried out by a licensed bat worker able to train and mentor volunteers. Volunteers would also receive training on how to lead bat walks and interpret and report on the data that is collected as part of the survey.

Bat Facts

- There are over 1000 different bat species, 18 of which are in the UK

Some bats live by themselves while others live in caves with thousands of other bats.

- Bats can live for over 20 years.

- Pteropus bats (also known as flying foxes or fruit bats) are the largest in the world.

- A small colony of bats can eat over one ton of insects in one year, or more than 600 million bugs

- A single bat can eat more than 600 bugs in one hour, which is like a person eating 20 pizzas a night.

- According to Bat Conservation International, 150 big brown bats can eat enough cucumber beetles in one summer to save farmers a billion dollars a year. Those beetles would have had 33 million larvae, which are what attack the crops.

- Some seeds will not sprout unless they have passed through the digestive tracts of a bat. Additionally, bats spread millions of seeds every year from the ripe fruit they eat. Approximately 95% of the reforestation of the tropical rainforest is a result of seed dispersal from bats.

- Bats emit noise from their noses! Amazingly, some bats have managed to develop novel techniques in avoiding moths hearing them coming, so that they can pounce! Moths have ears on their wings to listen out for bat echolocation, and some bats have learnt ways to fool moths by modifying their calls to sound like they are much further away or not even pursuing the moth - a very cunning way to catch their prey

Want to help? Donate to the cause, and give a bat a safe home: https://canalrivertrust.org.uk/donate/give-bats-a-home

Useful links

The essential role of wildflower meadows and flowers in edible gardens

Natural pest control - using predators to protect the garden

Watch: 7 reasons to create a pond

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