Summer evenings in Vancouver are the perfect time to sit outside and enjoy the sun setting over the mountains or the ocean. It’s also prime time to see if you have any bats living in your neighbourhood. If you’re lucky, you might see a colony of bats heading out into the night to hunt for insects. Here, in British Columbia, there are 16 species of bats; the most common one is the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus). This species tends to feed over bodies of water and at their peak feeding times can eat up to 1,200 insects per hour. Considering they only weigh about six grams, that’s a pretty impressive feat! In fact, a nursing female bat can eat her own body weight in insects every night and drastically reduce the number of mosquitoes.
Have a close-up look at some other bats that are also big eaters in the Vancouver Aquarium’s Graham Amazon Gallery. The Jamaican fruit bats (Artibeus jamaicensis) eat about 13 kilograms of food each night, or about 60 grams each. At the Aquarium, you’ll see them eating melons, bananas, apples, papayas and more. In the forests of Central and South America, they’ll eat any wild or cultivated fruits they can find, with figs making up the majority of their diet.
Our new Bat Cave exhibit lets you get right up to over 200 of these Jamaican fruit bats and see for yourself how amazing they are. Even though they’re nocturnal, we have reversed their photoperiod (the period of time each day during which they receive light) so that they’re flying around in the “moonlight” while the Aquarium is open.
As you observe the Jamaican fruit bats, either through the window or on our night-vision camera, you’ll notice they have leaf-like flaps by their noses to help them smell around for sources of soft, ripe fruit. You’ll also get to see how messy they can be, but this plays an important role in forest ecosystems. By spreading their guano (poop) around and dropping a lot of fruit and seeds, they are fertilizing the soil and dispersing plants. Their role is especially important in forests broken up by deforestation because they can fly great distances.
Avoiding pesticides in your own yard and choosing to buy organic fruits from tropical areas can help both the little brown bats of B.C. and the Jamaican fruit bats in their forest environments. If you really want to encourage bats to hang out near your house, take a peek at Bat Conservation International for information on building a bat house. This website also provides great information about how you can help the more than 1,200 species of bats around the world.
Have you seen any bats in your neighbourhood? Let us know in the comments below!