This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
Cheiroptera, or Bats, an order of mammiferous quadrupeds, characterized by having the tegumentary membrane extended over the bones of the extremities in such a manner as to constitute wings capable of sustaining and conveying them through the air, hence the name of cheiroptera, or hand-winged. The order is divided into two sub-orders Frugivora and Insectivora, the former insecti-frugiverous, and the latter purely insectivorous. All have exceedingly sharp-cutting and acutely tuberculated teeth, and the whole race is nocturnal. They vary in size from that of the smallest common mouse up to that of the gigantic ternate bat, whose body is as large as that of a squirrel. The smaller species are abundantly distributed over the globe; the larger seem to be confined to warm and hot regions, where they exist in great numbers and are very destructive to the fruits. The purely insectivorous species render great service to mankind by the destruction of vast numbers of insects, which they pursue with great eagerness in the morning and evening twilight. During the daytime they remain suspended by their hocked hinder claws in the lofts of barns and other buildings, in hollow or thickly-leaved trees, etc.
As winter approaches, in cold climates, they seek shelter in caverns, vaults, ruined and deserted buildings, and similar retreats, where they cling together in large clusters, and remain in a torpid condition until the returning spring recalls them to active exertions. In warm climates, where a constant succession of insects occurs, the same species of bat, which in a cold region would become torpid, continue in activity throughout the year. Bats generally bring forth two young, and suckle them until old enough to purvey for themselves. While suckling, they remain closely attached to the mother's teats, which are two, situated upon the chest. The parent shows a great degree of attachment for her offspring, and, when they are captured, will follow them, and even submit to captivity herself rather than forsake her charge. The voice of the small bats, when irritated, is a sharp chattering sort of squeak; they bite with much force, and those of considerable age and size can inflict a very severe injury.
The "nesting "or breeding places of bats are usually the roofs of buildings, between the slates or tiles and ceiling, and commonly by the eaves, where in one instance of a "nest" in the roof of a pavilion in a public park the wings of lepidopterous insects were swept up from the floor, filling a peck measure, the bodies being consumed by the parents and young of a single "nest."
Fig. I. - Bats: Common or Pipistrelle, left hand; Noctule, lowermost; Long-eared, uppermost.
The British bats are represented by the Insectivorous section of the Cheiroptera or Bat order; and included in the family of the Vespertilionidae or True Bats, are the species shown in the illustration, Fig. I.
Common bat or Pipistrelle (Vesperugo pipistrellus or Vespertilio Pipistrella), Fig. I, left-hand figure. This familiar little bat occurs throughout Britain, and flits about during twilight alongside of woods and in woodland glades, about farmsteads and buildings, in bye-roads and highways, in villages and towns, even visiting the most ornate halls, churches and cathedrals in quest of food, which consists of insects of various kinds, but chiefly dipterous. It is said to be also partial to meat, and has been found in larders and pantries feeding upon joints ! The Pipistrelle inhabits the crevices of walls and old buildings throughout the day. It passes the winter in a state of torpidity, but appears to hyper-nate for a shorter period than other and larger species.
Daubenton's bat (Vesperugo Daubentoni) frequents aquatic situations, and feeds upon gnats and other insects found in low-lying places.
Mouse-coloured bat (Vespertilio murinus) is local in distribution and found in or about buildings, and feeds upon nocturnal lepidoptera or moths.
Noctule bat (Vesperugo noctula), Fig. 1, lowermost figure, dwells in hollow trees, woods, pleasure grounds, and elsewhere in similar retreats, feeding largely upon cockchafer (Melolontha vulgaris), gardenchafer (Phyllopertha horticola), and rosechafer (Cetonia aurata), fifteen chafers having been found in the stomach of one bat.
Long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus), Fig. 1, uppermost figure, is found in woodlands and on heaths where trees exist, feeding upon small lepidoptera, beetles, and flies, always rejecting the head, legs, and wings.
In geological time the bats range from Eocene tertiaries down to the present, the Vespertilio being amongst the earliest and most common forms. In the caves and caverns of seme countries the accumulated excreta of vast numbers of bats is so considerable as to have commercial value as bat guano, which, according to Dr. Voelcker, contains nitrogen in three forms: first, as organic matter; secondly, as ammonia salts; and thirdly, in the form of nitrates. It also contains over six per cent. of phosphoric acid, and twelve per cent. of lime, and is chiefly sent into commerce from Texas, United States of America.