Bats as Natural Predators: What Do They Eat?

Bats are the natural predators of a wide range of insect species and eat large numbers of mosquitoes, moths, beetles, and other bugs. Although most bats are insectivores, a large number live primarily on fruit and nectar, and a small percentage prey on mice, frogs, lizards, and other small vertebrates.

What insects do bats eat?

Of the 45 bat species in the United States, 42 are insectivorous, meaning they eat nothing but insects. Bats eat a wide variety of bugs including mosquitoes, June beetles, armyworm moths, crickets, grasshoppers, cucumber beetles, leafhoppers, ants, flies, scorpions, centipedes, and many more.

How many mosquitoes do bats eat?

Many bat species eat mosquitoes, and claims have been made that bats can consume up to 1000 of these insects in a single hour.

However, the truth is that, although bats do prey on mosquitoes, they are more likely to favor larger insects such as moths and beetles.

Do bats eat wasps and bees?

Most bat species are insectivores and eat a wide variety of insects so, technically, they could also eat bees and wasps. In reality, bats rarely cross paths with these insects, as they are nocturnal creatures, and bees and wasps are active during the daytime.

Do bats eat mice?

The majority of bats eat only insects, while around a third of bat species eat fruit and nectar. A very small percentage of bats eat small vertebrates such as mice, fish, and frogs.

What else do bats eat?

The 1200 known bat species in the world can be divided into two broad categories; megabats, and microbats. The microbats include all of the insectivorous bat species, as well as a diverse group of bats in North and South America that also eat fruit, nectar, and small vertebrates.

bats eating fruit

Saken53/Pixabay.com

The megabats are large bats native to Asia, Africa, Oceania, Australia, and the Middle East, and they feed on fruit and the nectar of flowers. Only three bat species – the Vampire Bats – feed exclusively on blood and are found around southern Texas, Mexico, Central and South America, and some Caribbean islands. They feed primarily on the blood of cattle and other livestock, but will also prey on wild animals and birds.

What do baby bats eat?

Bats are mammals and, like all mammals, they produce milk for their babies until they are old enough to catch insects for themselves. One bat species native to Central and South America supplements this diet with regurgitated nectar.

Can bats be used as a natural pest control method?

Bats eat a large number of insects per year and are vital pest control for crops. Studies have shown that a single colony of 150 big brown bats in Indiana can eat 1.3 agricultural pests in a single year and, collectively, bats provide an estimated 3.7 – 22.9 billion dollars worth of free pest control services in North America.

Important!

Therefore, bats are highly effective natural pest control, and maintaining bat populations is essential for the health of our crops.

Bats prey on a wide variety of insect pests, and can also be beneficial to have in your back garden. A nearby bat colony can help to reduce the numbers of mosquitoes, armyworm moths, June beetles, leafhoppers, flies, cucumber beetles, and other nuisance pests in your yard.

How to attract bats into your backyard

If you don’t mind bats, you may want to take advantage of their insect hunting skills by encouraging them into your garden. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to turn your garden into an attractive bat habitat.

Let your garden grow a little wild (and be more tolerant of insects)

Long grasses and overgrown shrubs make ideal resting places for mosquitoes and other bugs. By encouraging (and tolerating) insects into your garden, you can provide a plentiful food source for bats and give them a reason to frequent your backyard.

Consider installing some bat-friendly features

Certain garden features, like ponds and compost heaps can encourage insects (and, therefore, bats) into the area. Bat boxes can take things one step further by providing a roosting spot for bats on your property.

Grow night-scented flowers

primrose

MabelAmber/Pixabay.com

Night-scented flowers (like evening primrose, honeysuckle, and jasmine) can attract moths and other nocturnal insects into your garden. Bats love moths and are likely to select your garden as their nighttime hunting ground if they can get plenty of their favorite prey.

Minimize artificial lighting

As nocturnal creatures, bats prefer darkness and will avoid your backyard if you have strong, artificial lighting out there. If you want bats to hunt near your house, reduce your use of outdoor lighting as much as possible. This is especially important if you have set up bat boxes and are hoping for tenants.

Keep your cat indoors

Cats will occasionally attack and capture bats and may scare them away if allowed to prowl your garden at night.

You may have to keep your cat indoors after dark if you want bats to roost nearby.

Conclusion

Almost all of the bat species native to North America are insectivores, and eat a wide range of insect species. This includes a variety of human and agricultural pests such as mosquitoes, cucumber beetles, June beetles, armyworm larvae, leafhoppers, flies, ants, and more.

Around one-third of the world’s bats eat mainly fruit and nectar, and a small number eat mice, fish, frogs, and other small vertebrates. Only the vampire bats, found mainly in Mexico, Central America, and South America, feed only on blood.

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