Bat Facts for Kids
How do you explain bats to kids? Bats are mammals, but they’re the only mammal capable of flight. There are approximately 1,200 bat species worldwide, making up almost a fifth of all mammal species.
The smallest bat species is the Kitti hog-nosed bat, which is 29-34 millimeters in length on average and is one of the smallest mammals on the planet. The largest bat species is the flying fox, which can have a wingspan of 1.7 meters!
Bats are the second largest order of mammals after rodents. They’re often separated into two main suborders: megabats and microbats.
What are Bats?
What are the different types of bats?
There are lots of different types of bats that live in the USA and around the world. We’re lucky enough to have 18 species of bat in the USA, 17 of which are known to be breeding here — that’s almost a quarter of our mammal species. Here are just some of those bats:
- Alcathoe Bat
The latest addition to the UK bat family, the Alcathoe bat, was only confirmed as a resident species in 2010 due to its similarity to the whiskered and Brandt’s bat species.
- Barbastelle Bat
This rare bat is found in ancient woodland south of the UK. With the ears joined at the base, it has a distinctive ‘pug-like’ appearance due to its upturned nose.
- Brown Long-eared Bat
This is a woodland bat with ears about 28mm long. The bat uses them to navigate and find food, including the tiniest insects.
- Horseshoe Bats
Restricted to the southwest of England and Wales, fewer and greater horseshoes have declined. In summer, they roost in roof spaces. In winter, they use underground sites such as caves.
The pipistrelle is the most common bat species in the UK, living in colonies of 1,000 bats or more. They often roost in modern houses but are found roosting and foraging everywhere.
What is a bat’s habitat?
Across the species, bats can be found in almost any habitat. They live in deserts, woodlands, suburban areas, caves, and cities. They make their homes ( roosts) in several different structures. They use trees, caves, cracks in buildings, and bridges. You might even find a group of bats roosting in your attic.
Although we might think that a bat’s habitat is in caves, this is a common misconception.
Megabats often roost in trees and are not exclusively nocturnal. They’re crepuscular animals, meaning they’re most active during twilight hours. However, microbats are largely nocturnal and often make their homes in caves, crevices, and other areas that cover them during the daytime.
There are bats in every continent and every habitat other than the high arctic areas, but there are a few species of bats located close to the Antarctic.
Bats also migrate between different habitats depending on the season, showing that they prefer other conditions and climates to varying times of the year. Bats prefer warmer temperatures, so those that live in places with cold winters tend to hibernate to survive the colder weather. Many types of bats also migrate to warmer climates as winter begins.
Where do bats live around the world?
Bats are found everywhere except in the Arctic, Antarctica, and some isolated oceanic islands.
They range everywhere from the far north of Scandinavia to the deserts of the south-western US.
What is a bat’s home called?
The place where a bat life is called its roost. Bats need different roosting conditions at other times of the year, so they’ll often move around to find a roost that suits their needs.
Some bats might prefer the hollows of trees, some prefer caves, and some prefer both at different times.
How have bats adapted to their habitat?
Bats have adapted in several ways to better survive in their habitat, protect themselves from predators, and more. Here’s how:
Echolocation, also called bio-sonar, is what bats use to navigate their surroundings and hunt for food. Most bats have poor eyesight (except the fruit bat), so they rely on echolocation to find their way around. For example, when hunting insects at night, bats make high-pitched sounds from their noses and mouths. The sound waves bounce off objects, such as the insect, which allows the bat to ‘see’ with sound. Their inner ears and auditory parts of their brain are specially adapted to help them understand these sounds in the ultrasonic range.
- Large Ears
Most species of bats have large ears, and it’s thought that this helps them with their heightened sense of hearing through echolocation. It also helps them sense the direction of sounds to navigate.
- Lightweight Wings
To help them fly effectively, bats have long arms with finger bones that are thin and light but capable of supporting and manipulating their wing membranes. Having lightweight wings makes it much easier for bats to fly swiftly and navigate while flying. They can also use their wings to carry and catch prey.
- Specialized Mouth and Tongue
Bat species eat a variety of different foods, and many bat species have specialized mouths and tongues to help with this. For example, glossophagine bats have long tongues to help them collect nectar. They can elongate to be twice as long as their resting length!
Many species of bats, including the vesper and horseshoe bats, can reduce their body temperature to the same as their environment’s when they rest. Then, they can raise their temperature again when they get ready to fly. When they drop their body temperature, they can conserve energy.
- Being Nocturnal
Being nocturnal has lots of benefits for bats. Flying requires a lot of energy and can be too tiring if done during the day. In addition, a bat’s thin and black wing membranes may absorb too much heat during the day, leading to dehydration. So instead, they fly at night when it’s cooler and darker. There’s also less competition when hunting insects at night.
- Sleeping Upside Down
Bats’ behavioral adaptations as well as physical ones — sleeping upside down is one of them. Bats are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day. Unfortunately, this can leave them vulnerable to predators. As a result, bats have adapted to sleeping upside down, holding onto their feet. As a result, they can open their wings, fly off whenever needed, and escape quickly.
How do bats reproduce?
Bats are mammals, so the females give birth to live young. Pregnant females gather together in maternity roosts to have their young, and the pregnancy can last 6-9 weeks. Female bats give birth to a single baby each year, which they keep close to them and care for. Baby bats are nursed by their mothers for about 4-5 weeks until they’re old enough to fly. Then, they pass out of the roost to begin foraging for food.
What do bats eat?
There’s as much variation in the diet of bats as there are species of this flighted mammal. However, one common feature shared across all bat species is the amount of food they must eat — bats need to eat a lot for their size. This is mainly because of their high metabolism and rapid burning of energy through flying.
The majority of microbats live off a diet mainly consisting of insects. However, insectivorous bats (bats that only eat insects) aren’t picky regarding the type of insects they eat — all insect species are part of a microbat’s diet but can vary depending on where in the world they live.
As opposed to the insectivorous microbats, megabats are largely herbivores who prefer a fruit diet. Some species of megabat are even considered nectarivorous, meaning they mainly get their energy from drinking plant nectar.
How do you make a bat habitat?
If you want to make a home for the bats in your local area, you can buy or build a bat house for the bats to make their roost. Then, you should:
- Choose the right spot – The best place is on a pole or the side of a building. Trees aren’t a good place for bat roosts because predators can easily access them.
- Make it small – Bats like tight and narrow spaces to call home.
- Ensure it faces the sun – Bats like warm temperatures, so a roost that gets all the sun’s warmth would be perfect for them.
- Check-in from time to time – Ensure the bats have liked their new home (rather than another animal, such as wasps).
One of the fascinating things about bats is how they’ve become synonymous with different things throughout history.
Many countries see bats as culturally significant in different ways, but in Western culture, bats represent the night, darkness, and often a sense of evil.
Most of this symbolism comes from the association between vampires and bats — the bat is a primary animal almost always linked to these fictional characters. However, this link often leads to bats being misunderstood as evil and bloodthirsty creatures, which is not the case. Instead, a large majority of bat species are herbivores.
Unlike many other cultures, bats symbolize happiness, joy, and good fortune in China. Five bats are even used to indicate the “Five Blessings”; longevity, wealth, health, love of virtue, and peaceful death.
The ancient civilization of Mesoamerica, what we now know as Central America, worshipped a bat god that was the god of corn and fertility.
Bats are often associated with spooky holidays like Halloween too. The black, winged shapes flying through the dusky night sky are eternally linked to the event.
The traditional connection between bats and Halloween can be traced back to Celtic civilizations. Celtic people would light bonfires as protection from ghosts believed to rise on Halloween night, and the bats would be drawn to the heat. Since then, bats have become synonymous with the holiday.
Why not get ready for this spooky season in the classroom and have fun learning about the mysterious bat? You can decorate your classroom and learn through Halloween-themed games. We have many bat templates for you to use when decorating your classroom and getting creative with your pupils. With our teacher-made resources, you can build writing and reading activities into your lesson plan.