Saturday 15 May 2010

Bat and Moth Survey Night - tonight

As we had the Great British Bird survey earlier in the year (results here), we now have a survey for two of the UK’s nocturnal groups – moths and bats, which hopefully will give the Conservation Trusts an idea about their plight. The public are being asked to “to hold their own night-time safari in the garden and report back their discoveries”.

It’s estimated that UK moth numbers have fallen by a third in the past 40 years and this poses a threat to the bats that feed on them as well as upsetting the biodiversity balance. Without a flourishing and diverse plant and animal environment, humans will deserve to reap the (unintended) consequences – hard, but so true, words.

"Chiroptera" (bats) from Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur,1904

Bats and moths share a close relationship as predator and prey, evolving closely. Bats are able to navigate and hunt using a sophisticated sonar system called echolocation – uttering a series of rapid clicks which bounce off any objects in the air, enabling them either to avoid a collision or to catch their dinner!

Some moths are clever too and have developed simple hearing organs that can pick up on echolocation, allowing evasive action to be taken; whilst Tiger Moths (left) are able to emit loud clicks similar to echolocation calls, confusing the bats.

Do you think this sonar system could be adopted by a human being? ... well this video is quite amazing of a young lad, Ben Underwood, who can do extraordinary things by using echolocation himself, which was unheard of in humans. “See Without Eyes” on Ben Underwood, 14. You won’t believe it unless you look ... what else will humans do as they evolve ... ?!

All of the 17 species of bat found in the UK feed on moths, but the long-eared bat, two horseshoe bats, and Bechstein’s Bat (right) are particularly partial to them, forming a significant part of their diet. A large moth can be more than a mouthful, so the bat bends its tail forward and forms a ‘feeding bowl’ in which it holds its prey whilst it is being eaten.

Castles, steeples, old barns, cellars, caves and attics of houses are wonderful day-time roosting places, where they are ready to emerge at night to hunt for their insect prey.

I have to say that there are fewer moths around, I remember growing up and seeing quite large numbers of them – and occasionally we created a moth trap in the light to look more closely at them. I was about to write about South African moths – as the insect book I found refers to Southern Africa .. no more .. back to British!

More than 2,500 species of moth have been recorded in Britain, many have a wide diversity of bright colours to warn away predators and cryptic camouflage to avoid predation. Moths are essential for bats, but just as important for pollinating plants and as a source of food for most garden birds.

The Garden Tiger Moth (small picture above) already mentioned .. is a brilliantly pretty nocturnal moth .. and is believed to have declined by 89% in the last 30 years. They love damp places, which is why they are to be found in river valleys, gardens and parks, but are usually seen around a source of light.

Poplar Hawk-Moths feed on poplar trees and other plant hosts such as aspen; but as with other moths a variety of trees are utilised depending on location, with the moth quite often being called after the tree species: viz. ‘Bird-Cherry-Ermine’, Scalloped Oak, or aptly named for their look ... ‘Plume’, ‘Light Emerald’, Green Silver-Lines’, ‘Pale-Tussock’, ‘Orange Swift’ ... and can be seen here.

The Feathered Thorn moth is an autumn-flying moth, which as you can see blends extremely well with autumn leaves. The one depicted here is a male clearly showing the large feathered antennae from which gets its common name. This picture is particularly fine – as you can see one of the major differences between butterflies and moths .. the feathers .. are found on moths; butterflies’ antenna end in a small knob.

Bats and moths are under pressure from similar changes in our countryside, and the declining numbers of insects is inevitably going to impact on the bat populations which feed on them. These changes are largely due to habitat loss – the urbanisation of this little country – so the Bat Conservation Trust together with the Butterfly and Moth Conservation Organisation are providing an essential role in the recording of these species and their habitats.

Minnie Mouse, Pomeranians, Bats and travel post: 21 May 2009

Dear Mr Postman – all well here .. it just might be getting warmer .. and my mother is sleeping lots more, but was pleased to see me before she drifted off again.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Paul C said...

I have seen fewer moths as well and I wonder if it is as a result of a decline in habitat. I live in the country where large scale farming practices have resulted in less biodiversity.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I must say and please don't judge me- I love bats. I think they are cute and so important to our Eco system.

I like your comparision of moth and bat being in close relationship -predator and prey. So much of God's world is just that- predator and prey - and neither do wish to be.

Another excellent and informative post, Hilary.

Unknown said...

Dear Hilary, Quite a scientific article you have. I remember we almost kept bats in my mother home downtown Tokyo. They are gone now. You are right that we see less moths these days. Human destruction of nature resulted in these? I hope not.

Thank you for your sharing.
Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Davina said...

Hi Hilary.
I think the moths are beautiful, though I hadn't thought of bats eating them -- blech. When we lived on the farm a bat got in our house one night. We caught it and put it in a jar for a short time. We put a stick in the jar and covered it. When we peaked in, the bat was hanging upside down. We let him go shortly after that, but it was interesting to see him close up.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paul .. I’m sure it is the result of churning up every corner of the land, cleaning everything down. We can still keep things tidy, but do the tidying when it least affects the wildlife. So I think you’re right – does your National Park nearby help in this? Thanks for being here .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. I think bats are wonderful too – often when we learn about creatures that we don’t know much about, they tweak our curiosity and then our appreciation. They are essential for our way of life – as you so rightly say. There were lots of other important points on the Conservation websites .. but I just made the post a little light one .. I hope! So didn’t enumerate too much.

We’re all predator and prey – just the human has taken that concept rather further than perhaps it should have .. not appreciating the consequences.

Thanks Teresa.. glad you enjoyed it – ruralhood girl that at heart you are ... Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. thank you – just some basic points .. – the echolocation used by Ben .. is amazing ..

And a scientific thought from a non-scientist .. if we have so many ways to listen to things .. will we get more ears?

I think if you take a walk around the urban jungle with a knowledgeable expert you’ll still find quite a few bats in specific locations – and probably moths crowding round the outside lights. But we have definitely not encouraged these essential creatures ...

Glad you enjoyed it – good to see you - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. oh dear .. they have to eat!! Nature lover –who looks after spiders and talks to them?! Glad you saw the bat at close quarters .. must have been an interesting experience .. we had snakes hatching in the house .. that put me off! We must have had bats ... there were plenty of old buildings around – before Heathrow was opened up as an airport.

Good to see you – have a happy Sunday - Hilary

J.D. Meier said...

I remember the first time I found a dead bat when I was a kid. It was the weirdest looking thing since I didn't know what it was. It had rubbery wings and a really weird face. I forgot all about it, until I saw your bat picture here.

> emit loud clicks similar...confusing the bats.
That's too cool!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. that must have been a bit of shock - except little boys love touching and feeling all things .. I'm not sure girls do as much.

A bat's anatomy is an evolutionary success .. interesting to hear the rubbery wings (bet they're strong though) and that weird face - as you say ... the Pom I referred to in last year's post - looked just like a bat!

Glad I stirred your childhood memory bank .. creatures have adapted so amazingly over the years ..

Did you see the video of Ben - that is EXTRAORDINARY?

If we have so many ways of listening to articles, songs, shows now - will we get more ears?

Interesting thoughts?! Have a good Sunday - remembering your bat and inspecting it! Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

Holy cow -- feathered antennae! Those look cool.

Hilary, I guess you are privy to the fact that Austin is not only the Live Music Capital of The WOrld, but also The Mexican Free-Tail Bat capital of the world, a million of them in colony under our Congress St bridge taking flight every summer night to fest on mosquitoes, them ramble home at dawn. Then winter in Mexico.

But of course you knew that, right? :)

And funny also -- Kelly and I were playing blind man's bluff in the livingroom 2 nights ago and she said she was finding me by echolocation -- so I guess she is hyper-evolved already??

I love moths. sort of. :) I like them better outside the house than in.

I sure hope you all can get te numbers back up without having to import mosquitoes for the bats!!

With love, admiration and gratitude for the education I always get here...

Jannie Funster, the First, of Austin Texas, not to be confused with the Janie Funnster who hails from Cardiff, but now lives in Dundee and sells roasted nuts and beer at a street stand down by The Discovery museum.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie - well cows do have long feathered lashes .. so you’re right – these feathers here are pretty amazing – aren’t they!

‘Fraid so .. actually wrote a lot about it last year .. link as in post above! Wouldn’t have known ‘cept I did a little look around ..

The mix of last year’s post – only came about from travelling back via Atlanta with Lauren & her mother – who needed help for her lack of security – so the Pom was very bat like! Hence bats .. then the various stories I found – Austin's bats, the boy and his delight and love of bats, and the echo-location teenager .. has Kelly seen the video – sounds like she has somewhere else – perhaps in school?

Well I hope the numbers come back ... but with all natural creatures – we’re losing too many. I’ll do a report back later on – I suspect it won’t be very good news ... but we are getting better at providing protected sites for our insects, birds etc .. I certainly don’t want any more mozzies than we have!

Crumbs Jannie – that’s praise indeed .. the feathers got me though! Just happy to pass on things that interest me ..

Well Jannie the First of Austin with her bats ... now the Janie of no fixed abode .. peddling her wares of roasted nuts (out of fashion now – too fatty!) and beer .. actually sound quite good to me – but I have to drive up the road to see my Ma again later on .. so I’ll wait awhile .. the sites of the bats must be amazing – are they near you?

Bye for now – onto castles and architecture & engineering for Patricia ... more educatin' this Sussex girl .. xo Hils PS Bats – yes .. not sure I knew about the Live Music Capital of the World .. but I might have .. not too musical – the genes failed there!

Joanne said...

It's sad that what we consider "progress" has such an adverse affect on natural wildlife and habitats. I wonder if the conservation groups have any suggestions for ways to preserve the existing moth and bat populations, maybe different ways to clear land for building, plantlife that might encourage their populations, that sort of thing.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joanne .. bats here are protected by law, while the Bat Conservation Trust is solely devoted to the conservation of bats and their habitats. I know a lot of old buildings have been rebuilt, or knocked down .. and that destroys hiding places at night, and hibernating places over winter.

Moths again – it’s the habitat we’re destroying, so the biodiversity is disappearing. Also climate change is having some effect ..

The research that’s being done by both Trusts and the survey results will be used to ensure that the right initiatives are put in place to underpin the conservation.

We all need to give wildlife a little thought – as well as ourselves! Thanks for visiting and for your questions .. Hilary

R.S Mallari said...

Not only In Great Britain. I remember in my homeland the Philippines, when I was younger even our house serves as a shelter to bats as there were plenty of trees in our community, but modernization and development crept, farmlands made into residential lots, trees cut, now I don't see even one bat in our community. If moths are preys to bats, bats cannot compete with humans when it comes to fighting over territories.

Liara Covert said...

Stories about bats often remind people of the reality of vampires. I recall a period in my life when I researched the psychpharmacology of bats. Believe it or not, the substance hirudin, found in bat saliva, is an effective anti-coagulent used in heart medications. You might find this odd, but some people prefer it over warferin which is also used as rat poison. To heal from within is an alternative.

Wilma Ham said...

Phew who says we are developed. That video was amazing. I see and I still walk into things.
I agree, when you know more about animals you are really treasuring them even if they look quite gruesome at first. I never seen bats, have no idea if they have them here, they have cave wetas, scary things. Thanks Hilary, I agree with everybody, great read again. Much love to you both, Wilma

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi RS .. it does seem that the bats and moths are suffering everywhere as we clear land for housing etc. Interesting to know that you had bats in and around your home in the Philippines when you were growing up – but now no more. Certainly moths and bats have little chance against us, unless we provide conservation areas for them & we all become more aware.

Good to see you here and nice to meet you – thanks for coming by - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. thank you – yes you’re right, people often people think of vampires in relation to bats.

Your studies sound fascinating .. and it’s amazing what we can find as we search for remedies from flora and fauna. I’m not sure which I’d prefer – bat saliva or warfarin .. which I know is also rat poison. To heal from within would definitely be better for us – if that’s at all possible.

Thanks Liara for this useful comment letting us know about hirudin .. good to see you - Hilary

BK said...

Interesting write up about bats and moths. I remembered seeing a lot of moths when I was growing up. Some of the moths I saw was especially big but usually they look quite dull. However, I don't see them often now.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. Yes – so pleased you looked at the video – it staggered me when I saw it. Amazing what Ben could do without hearing and how he’d garnered/ intuitively learnt echolocation as a choice available to him as a human, but which we with our hearing think we don’t need.

Animals with their ‘feeling’ of what’s going on & sometimes warning us .. like the frogs moving away from the eventual earthquake at Assissi.

I haven’t seen a bat, other than flying, “your” cave wetas .. are crickets .. or similar .. – creepy crawlies .. they seem to keep to damp dark places and are only found in NZ, Aus & Tasmania ..

The more we look after our environment – as you do .. the more we’ll help our biodiversity – everything has value somewhere along the line! Great to you – and thanks for your love – hugs across the globe, or via a weta tunnel?! Hilary xo

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi BK .. moths normally are 'dull' .. ie mottled browns, beiges .. blending in with the evening darkening and hiding in the vegetation during the day - if they're the nocturnal sort.

So - we obviously need to remember their environment too - as you're also saying there aren't so many.

Thanks for the visit .. have a good week - Hilary

Susan Blake said...

Hi Hilary! I celebrate nature and certainly appreciate the diversity but gosh I'm not a "bug" fan. I've promised them not to interfere with THEIR habitats if they stay out of mine! As for bats, they keep us mosquito free at the lake, and that's great - but they nest in the shutters outside my bedroom window and I hear them partying all night, in and out, breeding and godknowswhat! I'm after hubs to build some bat houses for them elsewhere!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi SuZen .. I wondered what you'd be saying here .. when I'd seen you over at Jannie's & her brand new shutters!

I'm not a bug fan much either .. but suddenly realising that each little thing has their place in life - and we're losing far too many .. so it's good to be given some info on them - which I sometimes pass on here.

I gather they're in your shutter windows .. good guano underneath though? Lucky things - partying all night, let alone anything else .. sounds like a fun place to be!!

Good old hubs - just like Jannie's .. always good for something .. building bat houses or shutters.

Well at least they keep you mosquito free - that must be a blessing ..

Have fun creating the bat roosts .. and enjoy the parties .. join in and see what happens? Bye for now .. hugs - Hilary

Sara said...

Hilary -- I really enjoyed this informational post. I didn't know about the relationship between bats and moths.

I loved the video! It was amazing. I wonder if his skills could be taught to others...that would nice!

One thing that really strikes me when I read your posts from the UK is that the people are asked to help in the bat and moth count and that these are regular activities.

I think is very good in that it makes a person more aware of the yearly changes because they helping record it.

Thanks for this post:~)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. good to see you .. we all seem to be amazed at such 'logical' connections none of us has made ..

So pleased you watched the vidoe .. it is amazing .. Jannie's Kelly was 'using' it .. but had Kelly seen the video elsewhere .. - interesting thought. I was just staggered at his abilities - to 'hear' and avoid things .. wouldn't it be great if others could absorb his intuitive knowledge.

Yes - we are .. but I gather there are surveys in the States/ Canada .. in specific areas ..

There's more involvement via the BBC conjoining with organisations in getting the public to be involved.

I'll do an update in a while on this .. I'm listening to something now that's very pertinent ..

The yearly changes are very apparent to nature ..

Glad you enjoyed it .. or the learning curve part .. thanks for the visit ... Hilary ..

Anonymous said...

These are very informative posts. I'm going to read it with my kids again this afternoon when they rerun home from school. I di dnot know some moths have developed hearing and can make noises. Amazing the diversity of life on this planet.

STephen Tremp

Chase March said...

Hi Hilary,

I think we can do a lot more that we even realize. There is a comic book character by the name of Daredevil who has a radar sense that is very similar to that of a bat.

In the comics, it was thought he had this ability do to an accident. However there is a blind man who has the same ability that he has learned how to use and develop over his life time. He teaches Daredevil how to hone this ability and be even more effective with it.

It's amazing to see that human beings can often make up for a deficit in one area by doing something most other people can't.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Stephen .. many thanks – I’d love to hear what they think? & what ages are they?

I’ve got loads more info to impart .. so I’ll do a follow up post probably next week .. another castle one before then! There’s so many things I’m learning .. and I now know the difference between a moth and butterfly – other than colours (or so I thought) .. live and learn ... I certainly learn something new (probably lots) everyday .. a great deal of it .. comes here.

Yes – we should take care of all creatures great and small .. and they’ll take care of us – enjoy the rest of the day & many thanks for the comments .. all the best Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chase ..I think you’re probably right – put in that position. Interesting what direction the imagination sends us; the parable of the teacher and the student .. blindman and how he’s taught how to hone his ability.

It is staggering to see what human beings can do when push comes to shove, & they have the motivation tucked away in their genes that propels them to succeed and overcome. YouTube is good for these clips .. and we can only wonder at their abilities to overcome adversity.

Thanks for your comments .. I’ve popped back to your site .. re comics .. bye for now - Hilary

Mark said...

Nature is truly amazing. We all adapt and change in order to thrive as survive. It is amazing that some sight impaired humans can develop echolocation. We are far more adaptable than we know.

Joyce said...

Hi Hilary! An interesting article ;) I didn't know bats eat moths. Will you be having your own night time safari in your garden?

Janice Lynne Lundy said...

Your post reminds me that there is such majesty in creation. Isn't it all just amazing!??
Glad your mum is resting with greater ease. And hopefully you are too? xo

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mark – isn’t it just .. the way nature evolves and adapts to conditions around it. I’m glad you enjoyed Ben’s echolocation .. some people can really overcome their difficulties .. and we should all push ourselves to our limits. Good to see you here ..Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Joyce .. good to see you – glad you enjoyed it and finding out that bats eat moths, amongst other things. Actually I only just scraped the post into the time frame – it was last Saturday! Oddly last night I did see a moth – a small house one I think. So no – I’m not sitting out .. we used to see a lot of hawk moths as kids .. have a good week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jan .. thanks – Nature really does reign doesn’t it? If we only looked more often at the bugs and the bees .. we’d see so much ..

Thanks re my Ma – hugs to you while you look after yours and hope all goes well with her recovery .. I’d forgotten you were going to be doing this – not surprising really I guess .. lots going on here! Life is easier as the weather warms up! And long may it continue .. look after yourself this week ... with hugs xo .. Thinking of you - Hilary

Barbara Swafford said...

Hi Hilary,

I'm not a big fan of bats. I also heard we have some in our area in the underground caves. As much as I'd like to see the caves, I worry I may be seeing bats too, and that frightens me. Aren't I a chicken?

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barbara .. no I don't think so .. but they're probably more afraid of you! Also if you went in daylight .. they'd be zizzing happily - or unhappily at being disturbed! I love seeing things like underground caves on the tv -the camera work is amazing .. - we must have bats here in the old buildings .. and one day I'll get myself sorted and start checking out more of nature - than I've done so far ...

Thanks for visiting good to see you - Hilary

Erin S. said...

Wonderful photos Hilary. I didn't know bats eat moths either. I do find them fascinating. I found an injured bat when I was around 8. Couldn't save it, but it was very interesting creature.

Evelyn Lim said...

I am not quite sure that I am a fan of the bats....maybe it's the association with vampires or something. The closest thing that I know about bats is Batman...most certainly not bats LOL. Interesting! I never knew that bats eat moths. Thanks for an educational post!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Erin .. thank you .. well we're all learning .. but I'd love to see one like you and JD .. they look fascinating - I'm getting braver with creepy crawlies! The more I learn I realise how important they are!

Your bat obviously made its mark, as you remember it .. I expect it had a good child's burial? Those I remember .. small birds, frogs etc .. safely and reverently given a burial service. Thanks for being here - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Evelyn ..yes .. as you say not quite in the same league as Batman - rather more realistic & important. Glad you enjoyed the post .. and found it educational .. there are other fruit eating bats .. but most of ours are insectivorous .. - thanks for the visit - Hilary