I live all over the earth except extreme desert regions and the Antarctica. You find the largest majority of my kind in the tropics. Over 1,000 species like me exist and each has a different color, shape, and size. I can weigh less than a penny and more than 2 pounds. I am considered the most important natural controller of night-flying insects.
Because I am a mammal, I have the same five senses as humans. I can smell, hear, taste, and touch. I can also see which disproves a misconception many people have that I am blind. Not only can I see, but many of my species have the added advantage of highly developed ultrasonic bio-sonar capabilities (also called echolocation) which come in handy when navigating in the dark to catch insects. The diet for 70 percent of my kind consists of pests to humans, lawns, shrubs, trees, and crops. I eat moths, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, leafhoppers, midges, and winged ants. Each night I usually devour my body weight in insects which can be up to 3,000 in just a few hours. I only eat insects when they are flying.
Instead of eating insects, some of my species eats fruit, nectar, and fish. I spread fruit seeds and I pollinate agave, banana, avocado, date, fig, and mango trees. In the tropics, I have a vital role in the survival and re-growth of the rainforests. In Africa, the baobab tree depends on me for survival. Although I am small, I play a vital role in the earth’s ecosystem.
I prefer making my home in mature or dead trees. but with the clearing of land to build homes and businesses, I have been forced to move into attics and other high places in homes and buildings. I like to live in caves also and here, so far, I can live undisturbed.
Since I am a wild mammal, about 1 in every 200 of my kind is a carrier of rabies. If you find me on the ground and displaying sluggish behavior, I am sick and should not be touched. I am not aggressive to humans and their pets, but if I am not feeling well, I have been known to bite in self-defense.
One fact that sets me apart from other mammals is I can truly fly and I do this using my hands. Other mammals can only glide. My hands (which are sometimes referred to incorrectly as wings) have long fingers and a thin membrane between each one. You will only see me flying for 15 or 20 minutes after sunset, but before total darkness. I like calm, warm evenings with temperatures at 65F or above. During evenings of high winds, heavy rain or cold temperatures, I stay hunkered down inside. During the evening hours I might be seen drinking from a lake or even a swimming pool in someone’s yard.
Scientists have classified me into a unique group called Chiroptera. Do you know what mammal I am? If you guessed a BAT, you are correct.