There are around fourteen species of bat found in the United Kingdom, all of which are small in size. The lifespan of a bat can be up to thirty years. The most common to the United Kingdom is the Pipistrelle, weighing a tiny five grams. The largest native species is the noctule but this is still smaller than the palm of your hand.
Due to the dramatic fall in their numbers, bats are protected by law. Six types are classed as ‘endangered’ and a further six as ‘vulnerable’.
Bats are brown in colour and can be identified by their wings, they have a soft membrane of skin stretched over their arms and legs and their bodies are covered with a downy fur.
Bats reside in many places, including caves, mines and churches. During the spring and summer months, stray bats or colonies can sometimes be found in and around people’s homes.
All British bats feed on insects caught in flight or picked off water, the ground or foliage, including moths, beetle gnats and mosquitoes.
Bats mate after the age of two years and produce a single offspring but not always every year. Bats are not blind but their most highly developed sense is that of hearing and by emitting high frequency sound they use a form of sonar to identify fine detail even in complete darkness so enabling the avoidance of obstacles.
Bats need a variety of roost sites for use at different times of year, They are particularly vulnerable where they concentrate for hibernation in winter and where females gather in maternity colonies in summer. The principle sites are underground habitats, such as caves, tunnels, buildings and trees.
Bats are locally harmless creatures and are not considered to be a pest. Their presence does not constitute a health risk. Their droppings can become smelly when damp.
Bats breed in late May to early June. Female bats breed a single pup, which feeds on their milk. Young bats are less than an inch in size with greyish fur. The young bat gains independence at six weeks old, hunting insects and no longer needing their mother’s milk.
Males make a special call to attract females during the breeding season, including clicks and buzzing sounds. By November, most bats will have found suitable hibernation roosts for the winter months and will rarely venture out until spring.
Bats do not damage property or buildings and do not gnaw wood, cable or make holes to gain entry, only using existing gaps and holes.
Bats are protected by numerous legislation and principally the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 which makes it illegal to to intentionally kill, injure, or handle any bat. It is also an offence to intentionally damage, destroy or obstruct access to any place that a bat uses for protection or shelter or to disturb one whilst occupying such a place.
Professional advice should be sought if you find them occupying your property. If you think you have bats roosting in your home, do not take any action before ringing the UK Bat helpline on: 0845 1300 228, English Nature 01773 455000 or your local Bat Conservation Trust Group or Wildlife Trust for advice.
Stray bats or colonies can sometimes be found during the spring and summer months, in and around people’s homes.