Daubenton’s Bats: Vital to the Ecology
Found throughout Scotland, particularly in rural areas, Daubenton’s bats are an important part of the ecology as they keep insect populations in check, eating up to fifty percent of their own bodyweight in gnat, midges, moths and other small insects every day. They generally catch these by flying just above water and trawling the surface with their large furry feet, eating their prey while still in flight. Granted, Daubenton’s bats only weigh between 7g and 15g, but they are known to roost in colonies of thousands of individuals and collectively consume an enormous number of insects. The presence of these quiet nocturnal creatures may only be noticed if they were no longer there, and insect populations increased unabated.
The Daubenton’s bat (Myotis daubentonii) is named in honour of the French naturalist Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton (1716-1799). It has brownish-grey fluffy fur on its back and is silvery-grey on the underside. The fur of juvenile bats is darker than that of the adults and they have reddish-pink faces and noses. Their wings and tail membranes are dark brown. They measure between 45 to 55 mm in length, with their wingspan being between 240 and 275mm.
Using echolocation – a series of sounds that bounce off objects at a frequency too high for humans to hear – Daubenton’s bats are able to discern their surroundings and zero in on their prey with amazing accuracy when they come out at twilight to feed. Mating takes place in autumn, with fertilization only taking place in spring, following a winter of hibernation. Bat pups are able to fly at about three weeks old and are independent between six and eight weeks old. They are known to live as long at 22 years, forming colonies in caves, cellars, tunnels, under bridges, or other similar structures near water.
Scotland is a spectacularly beautiful country and rural tourism offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy nature at its best. As you explore the Scottish countryside, be sure to look out for Daubenton’s bats as they swoop through the air at twilight doing their bit to keep the ecology in balance.