Bats Struggling to Cope With Extreme Heat

Image: Miriam Fischer/Pexels

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

As the world warms, it’s not just people who are feeling the heat. Bats are also susceptible to extreme heat, and overheated bat boxes can be “a death trap,” the Guardian reports.

In the wild, bats move between rock and tree crevices in search of a perfectly moderated temperature. One study found that a colony of bats used 72 different roosts to stay comfortable over the course of a single summer. However, habitat loss and fragmentation has destroyed much of their natural habitat and roosts. People have built them artificial homes — bat boxes — as a replacement. The boxes are beneficial, especially for young bat pups to develop, but they are on average warmed than ambient temperatures. 

Why This Matters: Bats are important to human life: their appetite for insects helps control crop pests and reduce the need for pesticides. They help pollinate plants and disperse seeds. Studies have estimated that their pest control services are worth billions of dollars

After surviving years of habitat destruction and extermination, extreme heat caused by the climate crisis is now their biggest threat. Researchers around the world are noticing overheated bats struggling to cope with the heat, especially in bat boxes. Of course, the reason why bats need boxes built by humans in the first place is because their natural habitats have been destroyed. Leaving more land wild would both create more natural roosts for bats and help regulate rising temperatures. 

The global bat plight: Extreme heat has been deadly for bats around the world. 

  • Queensland, Australia: more than 65,000 flying foxes died in a series of extreme heat events this past December and January. There have been nearly 200,000 flying foxes killed by too-warm temperatures since 2008.
  • Catalonia region of Spain: researchers noted nearly 800 overheating events in bat boxes over a five-month period.
  • Manchester, UK: 63 pipistrelle bat pups were rescued last summer after they fell from an overheated building roof. “Every year, temperatures are rising a bit more and we are reaching a critical phase where heatwaves are becoming at a level that is a danger for bat populations,” Orly Razgour, senior lecturer in ecology at the University of Exeter, told The Guardian.

Building a better bat box: The current style of bat box might be a tiny oven, but researchers are testing new models to make them more climate-ready. These home improvement projects include adding a chimney or a water chamber and painting the boxes in lighter, heat-reflective colors. It would also help to mimic the bats’ preference for having multiple roosts: installing boxes in different levels of sun and shade can help provide the space they need at a comfortable temperature. 

 

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