Ukraine’s Nocturnal Flying Mammals
Often shrouded in myths and folklore, bats are among the most misunderstood animals in the world, when in fact they are vital to the ecology of the areas they live in. Through education projects at schools and with the general public, conservationists in different parts of the world, including Ukraine, work hard to dispel the erroneous beliefs people have about bats and to raise awareness that many bat species are dwindling in numbers, which could impact negatively on the environment, as they play an important role in keeping insect populations down.
One of the myths associated with bats is the belief that bats deliberately fly into people’s hair. This is not true. However, bats fly at high speeds, changing direction in a split second in pursuit of insects, and because some insects are attracted to the warmth and scent of humans, a bat may fly very close to a person in an effort to catch these insects, but they seldom make contact. The legends of vampire bats have likely arisen from the fact that, out of the more than 900 species of bats found around the world, three species feed on the blood of mammals and birds. These are found only in Central and South American countries. All other bats are insect and/or fruit eaters. An average sized bat can eat up to half its weight in insects every night, equivalent to around 4,000 mosquitoes. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind and with sufficient light can see normally. As they feed at night however, they mainly use echolocation to guide them.
As bats do not build shelters, they make use of natural shelters such as rock crevices, caves and hollow trees, or they use man-made structures such as under eaves of houses, or in attics and barns. Many species hibernate through the winter, while some migrate seasonally, following their food source. As mammals, bats give birth and suckle their young, referred to as pups. They generally only have one pup at a time.
There are 26 species of bats in Ukraine, belonging to two families – Horseshoe and Vespertilionidae. All bats in Ukraine are protected by legislation, but nonetheless face a decline in numbers caused mainly by habitat destruction and the use of pesticides to kill the insects bats feed on. If you have bats where you live, why not put up a roost for them to live in. They will reward you by keeping flying insects out of your environment. Find out more about these amazing flying nocturnal mammals, and what can be done to protect them, at the Ukrainian Centre for Bat Protection.