There are over 100,000 species of bat all across the world. What’s even more interesting than that is, all these bat species fall into one of two categories: Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera. Colloquially, these are referred to as megabats and microbats. Bats come in all different shapes, sizes, and colors; but all of them will either be a megabat or microbat species. Bats are the only mammal on Earth capable of true flight. This is one of the most interesting and incredible characteristics of bats! All bat species, whether mega or micro, are special and unique. Let’s take a closer look at a few individual species of bat, and discuss the differences between Megachiroptera and Microchiroptera bats.
Microbats are not called “micro” for no reason; they are the smaller of the two category bats. The smallest microbat, called the Bumblebee Bat, weighs only 2 grams! Other microbats are known to weigh only a few ounces, and range between 4 and 15 centimeters long. They are also called Echolocating bats, small bats, insectivorous bats, and true bats. Although they go by many names and have various sub species, all microbats use echolocation to locate and hunt for food. Echolocation, also called bio sonar, is a method of emitting calls or sounds into the surrounding environment, and waiting for the sounds to bounce of close-by objects and return. This creates a mental grid or map for a bat in hunt of prey at night. Microbats have an interesting diet that mostly consists of insects; but larger species prefer small prey like frogs, fish, small birds, lizards, aquatic organisms, and even smaller bats. A few well-known species of Microchiroptera include the Spotted Bat, Spectacled Bat, Mexican Free-Tailed Bat, Bumblebee Bat, Orange Leaf-Nosed Bat, Little Broad-Nosed Bat, and the Inland Forest Bat.
Megabats are much larger than most microbats. They have large eyes and a keen sense of smell. In fact, these two senses are their principle asset in hunting and locating food. You see, Megachiroptera bats do not use Echolocation like the Microchiroptera (with the exception of the Egyptian Fruit Bat that uses high-pitched clicks to navigate in caves). Instead, they see and smell very well. Their diet is frugivorous and nectarivorous, meaning they consume only ripened fruit, fruit juices, nectar, and pollen from flowers. They have long tongues that can reach down to the bottom of flowers in order to get to the pollen. Megabats and plant life practice a form of mutualism called Chiropterophily. Bats consume, pass along, and eliminate pollen and fruit seeds, producing more growth and aiding in the pollination process. Common species of megabat include all Fruit Bat species, all Flying Fox species, the Hammerhead Bat, and the Long-Tongued Nectar Bat.
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