Being elusive creatures of the night there are still many myths and horror stories involving bats. I can assure you that they do not get stuck in your hair and that they are far from being blind. You may experience bats swooping low over your head, most probably because you have just disturbed lots of tasty insects. You will be avoided due to the bat's highly developed navigational system called echo-location. They also have good low light level eyesight and a good sense of smell.
As far as blood sucking goes, of the 1000 (approx.) species world-wide, only 3 are vampires, living in Southern and Central America. Humans do not feature on their preferred choice menu either.
Bats are not flying mice, they are more closely related to humans than to rodents.
All bats are members of the scientific order Chiroptera, which literally means 'hand wing'. The fine bones of the elongated fingers support the skin membrane, which enables them to fly. They are the world's only flying mammals - flying squirrels do not...... they glide!!
There are two sub orders, the Megachiroptera and the Microchiroptera. The first are the Old World (Africa to the Pacific Islands) fruit bats, which have large eyes and teeth. The latter can occupy most habitats, even deserts, except the poles.
The 16 species of British bats belong to the Microchiroptera. Their natural roost sites are in the cracks and crevices of trees and underground sites such as caves, although many now utilise building. Bats do not like living in belfries! They are usually too cold and draughty and rather noisy!!
Species variation can be huge. Wingspans can reach 2m (6ft), but bodies can be as small as 3cm (1.25ins) in length. Weights can range from 1kg (2lb) to 2g (< 1oz). Diet ranges from pollen and nectar to fish and lizards. All British bats maintain a diet of insects.
Bats have been around for at least 50 million years, in a very similar form to those we see today. Species have diversified and evolved to cope with different climates and habitats. Ice Ages have come and gone and bats still flourished, until the greatest threat of all turned up relatively recently - humans!
© Rebecca Collins, 1999