Pups can weigh as little as a sheet of A4 but as adults they eat 1000 insects a night and live up to 20 years. And no, they don’t suck human blood.
The world’s only flying mammal, microbats are Perth’s unsung environmental heroes, and they’re being wooed to set up house at Bibra Lake’s notorious midge hot spots to feast on the pests that make summer a nightmare for nearby residents.
“They are the perfect pest control,” East Freo greenie Joe Tonga (pictured, right) told the Chook. “They can eat half their body weight in one night.
“Once they fly out of their roost, they eat on the wing—takeaway—all night. They just fly with their mouth open. So they provide a great way to reduce insect numbers.”
While food is plentiful, habitat is scarce, which is why Mr Tonga has installed more than 30 bat boxes in Cockburn’s wetlands. Each accommodates up to 50 furry critters.
On Tuesday mayor Logan Howlett and wife Pat visited the Bibra Lake urban farm where Mr Tonga installed a box in trees off Gwilliam Drive.
An avid night walker for 30 years, the mayor still recalls being ear-clipped by bats: “[The wetlands] had kangaroos in those days, millions of rabbits, and big spiders.”
WA boasts two types of bats—the better-known megabats, or flying foxes, and the smaller insect-eaters Mr Tonga is building homes for.
He says there are seven species in WA, six in Cockburn where numbers appear to be rising based on the number of tenants he finds in the boxes.
Adult microbats weigh just 40 grams and, like humans, give birth to live young which hang tightly to their mums’ backs during flight. They breed once a year and twins are common.
Most species are hollow-dependent, sleeping during the day inside hollows of trees or branches.
As for blood-sucking, Mr Tonga says, “Hollywood is to blame”, though in South America, microbats are known to attach themselves to cows’ legs for a sneaky haemo shake.
Microbats see with their ears rather than their eyes and can produce a sound that bounces off the ground, trees, rocks and buildings to tell them how close they are to their target, to an uncannily accurate degree.
Construction of the boxes was funded under a $4000 sustainability grant, which includes bird breeding boxes and tree plantings.
Further information is available at Mr Tonga’s bat site at http://www.gobatty.com.au.
by CARMELO AMALFI