Spotlight on Bats of the South Okanagan Similkameen

Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance California Myotis by Tanya Luszcz calfornia_myotis
California Myotis by Tanya Luszcz
What is a Bat?

Bats are mammals just like us. They are warm-blooded, have hair, bear live young, feed their babies milk and have five fingers and toes. Bats are the only mammals that can fly, They comprise the chiroptera order of mammals which means hand wing in Greek. They are nocturnal foragers feeding at night and roosting or settling to rest by day. During cold weather or times of scarce food supply, some bats go into a state of torpor (a form of hibernation) where they can lower their body temperature and metabolic rate. Some other bats will migrate to warmer, sunnier climates during the winter months. There are over 1,100 known species of bats in the world, living in every continent except Antarctica.

Bats are not blind! How do bats move around in the dark?

All bats can see but some use a special sonar system called echolocation. These bats make high frequency calls either out of their mouths or noses and then listen for echos to bounce from the objects in front of them. They are able to form pictures in their brains by listening to the reflected sounds.

Why do Bats hang upside down?

A bat needs to hang upside down in order to drop into flight and to roost (rest or sleep). Its hind limbs are rotated 180 degrees so that its knees face backwards. Hanging upside also helps to conserve energy and to protect bats from predators as they can access spaces that other animals cannot reach such as the ceilings of caves and the slim branches of trees.

What do Bats eat?

  • Insects: 70% of all the bats in the world eat insects and many of them use echolocation in order to find insects. Many insect- eating bats can eat more than 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in an hour.
  • Fruit: these bats live in tropical climates and have very good eyesight and sense of smell.
  • Nectar: these bats have long noses and tongues for harvesting nectar.
  • Carnivores: these bats have sharp claws and teeth.
  • Vampires: only a few bat species found in Latin America eat only blood.

There are 16 different species of bats in British Columbia. Fourteen of these species are found in the South Okanagan and Similkameen which makes this region home to the richest bat diversity in all of Canada. The warm, arid climate and abundance of bat friendly habitats such as grasslands, ponderosa pine forests, valley bottom riparian areas and rugged rock cliffs account for the high diversity of bat species in this area.

Who are the Bats of the South Okanagan Similkameen?

All of the bat species in the south Okanagan Similkameen are insectivorous. They do not eat fruit! This is great for orchardists, vineyard owners and farmers as bats are a natural insecticide. Of the fourteen bat species in the South Okanagan Similkameen, six are currently considered at risk or threatened. These include:

Bats in the Vineyard: A benefit

  • Natural pest control and a free source of fertilizer- bat guano!
  • Spotted bats feed exclusively on moths!
  • A single bat can eat 20 to 25 moths in one meal. A colony of 100 bats could eat up to 2500 moths in one night!

How can you attract bats to your vineyard?

  • Install bat boxes (contact OSCA to arrange).
  • Minimize use of pesticides.
  • Use a cover crop of native plants to attract native insects.
  • Maintain antelope brush shrub steppe grassland habitat around your vineyard.

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