Friday, May 29, 2009 the Belfry

I have mixed feelings about bats. I mean, I like the idea of bats, if not their actual presence anywhere near me. (Then again, I rather like the Sun, but I can't say as I would want it in my kitchen, as I would imagine that it would be more of a fire hazard than an un-unplugged toaster.) Sure, they eat mosquitoes in vast quantities; this article by bat expert and Bat Conservation International founder Merlin Tuttle says that
Individuals of some bat species can capture from 500 to 1,000 mosquitoes in a single hour and large colonies can consume enormous quantities. For example, a Florida colony of 30,000 southeastern bats (Myotis austroriparius) was estimated to consume 50 tons (45 t) of insects annually, including over 15 tons (13.5 t) of mosquitoes, and from 77.4% to 84.6% of little brown bats (M. lucifugus) living in the northern U.S. and Canada eat mosquitoes. Nursing mothers of these species eat up to their body weight in insects nightly.
But then maybe it's a question of context. Waking up at 3 a.m. to find a bat flapping around the room does not do much to endear them to me. It was a very creepy moment. Awakened by an odd noise, I turned on the light, and there it was. My resulting scream actually approximated the frequency of the bat's echolocation, and it fled into the living room. What was interesting was that it was a very clumsy bat; it kept blundering into the walls and closet door.

Locked in the "panic room" until dawn, I started thinking... Bats eat mosquitoes of course, and mosquitoes in turn suck human blood. But it had been a Thursday night in early summer. What if the mosquitoes had been feasting on the high-blood-alcohol-level partiers on Caroline Street? Those mosquitoes could very well have then been munched by the bat. Ergo, could a bat get "drunk"?

Anyway, bats were in my own belfry as I was reading a post on Cocktail Party Physics about the mammals. I decided to trot on over to Wikipedia and see if there were any anwers to my question.

Did you know...
  • There are about 1,100 bat species worldwide, accounting for about 20% of all mammal species?
  • That the largest bat is the giant golden-crowned flying fox which has a wing span of 4 ft 11 in and weighs approximately 3 lb? I'm positive that this was the one that was in my apartment, but I may be mistaken...I'd need to see a police line up.
  • That there are two suborders of bats--megabats (oh, come on, that sounds like something Douglas Adams made up) and microbats? The latter use echolocation, while the former do not.
  • That one species of bat has the longest tongue of any mammal relative to its body size--perhaps known colloquially as the "Gene Simmons bat"?
Come to think if it, I think I'd much rather have a bat than Gene Simmons flying around my apartment.

What is one to do if one does indeed have a bat in one's home? Despite my aversion to the critters, I'd rather not kill it. The first bat--the 3 got out of its own accord; the next morning, after the sun came up, the landlord and I did a thorough search and could find no sign of it. Needless to say, when I came home the following evening, I had left a broom outside the front door, and burst into the house and made a search of the place like Mulder or Scully, kicking in doors, pirouetting and twisting around. It was quite a sight; one wonders what the neighbors thought. The second bat--some months later, and I had been awake for this one--had a distinctive flight path and could be disposed of simply by opening the door and letting him/her fly out.

Anyway, instructions on what to do in the case of batness can be found here.

And, finally, for your amusement, Cocktail Party Physics had a link to a video of a vampire bat on a treadmill. This makes sense. With today's purported obesity epidemic and everyone's cholesterol level elevated, even Dracula needs to join a gym.

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