Posted by Jo Neville CEnv MIEEM BSc on 31/10/2011

Halloween is here and it seems that bats are everywhere, but most of those not made of plastic are likely to be finding places to get safely tucked up for the winter; hibernating in buildings, caves and trees across the country. And our hard-working ecologists can take a well earned breather; many long evenings and (very) early mornings of bat surveys are over for another year! We’ll still get our bat fix - bat habitat assessment and surveys and bat hibernation surveys are on-going throughout the winter - but these are undertaken during more sociable hours, allowing a little time off for the occasional mulled wine!

But whilst you carve your pumpkin and don your witch’s hat, spare a thought for our little sleepy friends. They are often misunderstood, and many an hour of consultant’s time is spent explaining that they are not half as scary or problematic as people think! It was not so long ago that I was talking to a lady on the phone who had just discovered a bat roost in her attic. She rang in a panic to ask what she could do about it, and what precautions she should take – “I’ve heard that bats form groups and are well known to attack children; I’ve read all about it on the internet”....

The only reference that I can find on the internet to bats carrying off children is from a Hawaiian myth where Peka-nui (Great bat) carries off two children (Hina and Maui) and promptly changes into a snipe. Hmmm. A quick workplace poll indicates that in the 21 years of Ecosulis operations not a single employee has ever been attacked by either a snipe or a bat, and that’s been a lot of bat and bird surveys! A follow-up Google search for how many bats it would take to carry off a person was disappointing in its total lack of useful information! However, given that the noctule, Britain’s largest bat, has an average weight of just 32g, it’s going to be quite a few!!

In reality all our British bats feed solely on insects. The tiny pipistrelle can eat over 3000 insects in a night - pretty impressive, and more useful than scary! Sadly, our UK bat populations have declined considerably during the past century, and it is human activity threatening bats rather than the other way around. They are still under threat from loss of roosting sites, feeding areas and flightlines. All bats are protected by law so if you do find a bat, or are worried about bats in your house The Bat Conservation Trust runs the National Bat Helpline, providing information to anyone needing advice on issues relating to bats – their number is 0845 1300 228. Bats are rarely a show-stopper in terms of development, renovation and maintenance works; impacts can be avoided or minimised and opportunities incorporated with just some minor tweaks to proposals. Ecosulis has been involved in a huge number of projects involving bats, and has helped to include new foraging areas and roost sites for bats within developments across the country.

And if you want to help bats, why not consider putting up a bat box, or joining a local bat walk in the summer to find out more.