Bat in Flight While the Other Hangs Upside Down, Barbados Pocket Guide


Bats, to most of us, are synonymous with horror movies. Often seen as both ugly and dangerous, these creatures do serve a vital purpose in Barbados. Believe it or not!!


Bats are warm-blooded mammals that have bodies covered in fur and belong to the order Chiroptera. Their wings have very long finger bones covered by thin, strong translucent skin. They are the only mammals that possess the ability to fly.

They are most active at night while they spend their days “hanging out” in dark caves or secluded areas.

Bats are unable to fly from the ground and so hanging upside down from high perches gives them the necessary momentum needed once they release themselves. This process of hanging upside down also allows them to stay safely away from potential predators.

There are two main groups of bats - the large ones that eat fruit (flying foxes) and the smaller insect-eating bats. Bats are also known to feed on the nectar of flowers and eat small animals like fish and frogs.



Apart from their somewhat frightening appearance, it is always assumed that every bat is a carrier of rabies. Quite the opposite, as less than one half of one percent of the entire bat population carries the disease. Bats are very much aware of when they are sick and interestingly enough, they would much prefer to go off to a private place and die peacefully and not pose a threat to human life at this time as is most often assumed.


Based on reports from the Center for Disease Control, people cannot get rabies from physical exposure to bats. i.e. seeing them outside or even from a distance. It should be noted that if you are unfortunately bitten by a bat or should its saliva get into your eyes, nose or mouth, medical attention should be sought with immediate effect.


Vision and Hearing

Contrary to popular belief, bats are not at all blind. Their eyesight is not as sharp when compared to some other mammals but they can see reasonably well.


In the same way we depend on sunlight to see, bats depend on sound waves for direction. When in the dark, bats produce sound pulses to see. High pitched sound pulses are sent out, then an echo bounces back to the bats. Bats send out different pitches of sound and based on the order of which these echoes are returned, they are able to develop mental pictures of their surroundings.


Bats have fantastic night vision. Fruits and flowers are sourced by fruit bats by way of their keen eyesight and sharp sense of smell.


Bats that hunt insects, fish or frogs can also "see" with sound. This is called echolocation (the process in which objects are located based on reflected sound). Bats with large ears and leaf-shaped flaps of skin on their noses tend to use this echolation process which helps them direct the high frequency sounds they make.

Maybe the myth about bats not being able to see has something to do with that expression “As blind as a bat”.


Benefits of Bats

During the night, insect-eating bats are capable of consuming thousands of insects such as mosquitoes, moths, beetles, ants and flies. In fact, in just about an hour, one insect-eating bat can catch somewhere between 500-1000 insects in that space of time. A reduction in these pests automatically mean a reduction in our usage of harmful pesticides and a reduction in diseases such as malaria and dengue.


Bats play an integral role in maintaining nature’s balance. They assist in pollinating plants and scattering seeds which helps to keep ecosystems healthy and stable. Their nitrogen-rich feces is used to help plants and trees multiply efficiently and thereby continue the process of providing food and shelter for human-beings and animals alike.


In Barbados, bats have a way of finding their way into house roofs once an opening is available. This opening has now provided a shelter for them. Not a bad creature to have home and garden.


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