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Cool Creatures: How Do Bats Use Echolocation?

Cool Creatures: How Do Bats Use Echolocation?

If you live in the Midwest, you may have noticed small colonies of bats either in your attic or around your home. You’ll mostly see them around dusk or once the sun sets, using echolocation to move in the dark. 

So how do bats use echolocation?

We’ll explain that bit here, but before we do, we have one request:

If you find these sweet creatures living in your home rent-free, contact Central Plains Bat Removal ASAP before trying to remove them. While it’s understandable you want them out of your home, we urge you to never attempt to harm the bats in any way. They are very gentle creatures and pose no threat to you. Call today for ethical bat removal. 

Now, are you ready to find out “how do bats use echolocation?” It’s a fascinating method by extraordinary creatures.

What is Echolocation?

How do bats use echolocation? This illustration depicts how echolocation works.

Echolocation is a navigation technique using sounds. Animals ranging from dolphins to — you guessed it — bats use this technique to move around without relying on their vision. 

Bats use echolocation by emitting high-frequency noises from their mouth or nose. Depending on the loudness of the echolocation, bats can either ‘shout’ or ‘whisper.’ 

So how do bats use echolocation, and what makes one a shouting vs. a whispering bat?

Shouting bats produce sounds of 110 decibels, similar to that of a smoke alarm. Their loud screeches are not perceivable by humans, however, so don’t worry about your eardrums hurting. This loudness allows them to forage for food in wide, open spaces more effectively.

Whispering bats tend to be a bit quieter in their volumes, with their noises topping at only 60 decibels or the volume of a normal human conversation. These fellas often hunt for insects from the foliage of trees or forage in dense environments such as forests.

How Do Bats Use Echolocation?

A bat hunting at dusk using echolocation.

So you know that bats naturally produce echolocation, and there are different types. But how do bats use echolocation? What is the process, and is it efficient?

As mentioned, bats produce echolocation by emitting high-frequency sound pulses that humans can’t hear. When these sounds hit an object, the echo reflects back to them and tells them where something is.

How accurate are these echoes, you ask? These flying mammals can detect something as small as a mosquito or a strand of human hair in the breeze! How crazy is that?

Due to how sound reflects, bats can accurately determine the size, shape, and texture of objects. It’s so precise they can differentiate between an insect and a person. 

You might be wondering: How are they so accurate?

The accuracy depends on the material of the object. 

Imagine this: you’re in a room made of soundproof foam. If you shout as loud as you can, the foam absorbs the sound, leaving no echoes to bounce off the walls.

Now imagine you’re in a steel room. You shout, and echoes reverberate all over the place!

The same principle applies to our friendly mammals.

Lots of bugs have tough carapaces that are super smooth and reflective. The sound easily bounces off their hard outer shells, making them easy prey for bats. 

To combat this, some moths have adapted to stealth by sacrificing defense and having fuzzy wings so that the echo doesn’t reflect but gets absorbed, much like the foam room. It is incredible to see nature outcompeting itself!

Do All Bats Echolocate?

A small bat on a black background

No, they don’t! Only about 70% of bats worldwide can echolocate. Due to evolution and varying circumstances, many species never found the need to echolocate, so they never developed the ability.

Fruit bats are a great example of a species of bat that lacked the need for echolocation as they evolved. In fact, they never developed the ability to from the start. 

Researchers at the University of New South Wales speculated that the common ancestor of bats probably never had echolocation and that the skill developed through an evolutionary branch!

Do Bats Use Their Echolocation All the Time?

Not necessarily. Even in those that can, they often squeak when communicating with each other, especially between females and their pups. These adorable squeaks are audible to humans, but they’re not echolocation.

Remember that echolocation is a technique mainly used to find their way through the dark or to hunt. Surprisingly, not all bats are hungry for blood like their stereotype suggests. Many prefer to suck the juices out of fruits rather than the blood of other living creatures.

For those living in the Midwest worried about bats flying around your area, do not worry. They will not harm you in any way and will provide many beautiful benefits instead. 

The Benefits of Having a Friendly Neighborhood Colony of Bats

A colony of bats hunting at dusk

How do bats use echolocation to benefit you? It’s actually really cool and part of their adorable charm. 

Aside from being friendly, they can also protect you from pests.

Bats use echolocation for hunting for moths and other insects while you are fast asleep and safe in your bed. So not only will they not bother you, but they’ll also provide a free service!

In fact, the bats in your area love to feed on those pesky mosquitos that actually want a taste of your blood. It must be surprising that the stereotyped “blood-suckers of the night” can protect you from actual blood-sucking creatures.

Want to know the best part? Bats are also great for gardens. The reason is that they are a keystone species, meaning we need them for our ecosystem to function properly. 

Bat droppings (also called guano) are one of the best natural fertilizers. They are also pollinators and can carry pollen on their bodies as they fly. It is incredible how much these creatures can do so much for your home!

Relocating Your Unwanted Guest

Two little brown bats hanging upside down

Bats are cool, friendly creatures with impressive capabilities. However, understandably, you might not want them in your home. If a bat colony has moved in, don’t hesitate to contact Central Plains Bat Removal. We will humanely and quickly relocate the creatures from your home. 

Bats help our environments thrive, which is why we always use safe techniques to help them find a new home away from yours.

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