Assets with Eyes

Nighttime buddies

27 Oct 2020

With Halloween almost here you may be gearing up for some trick-or-treating and ready to gorge yourself on delicious treats! You won’t be alone!

During the night, microbats will also be out and about, as usual, gobbling up thousands of nighttime flying insects. Bat surveys have shown that the nightlife of Sydney Olympic Park is full of hardworking microbats with the Park hosting 12 species.

Bats are unique; they are the only mammals who can fly.  Microbats, as their name suggests, are very small. Most are smaller than your computer mouse, and weigh less than a tablespoon of sugar.

Microbats are mainly insect eaters, devouring about one third  of their own body weight every night. Because of this, bats are fantastic pest exterminators with scientists estimating that bats can help us save somewhere between $3.7 and $54 billion in pest control services every year.

During the night these animals work diligently to remove as many insects and bugs from the night sky as possible, locating their food with an exceptional system of navigation and prey detection called echolocation. The Park supports the only fishing bat in Australia – the Southern Myotis. This threatened species has echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a fish fin, as fine as a human hair, protruding only two millimetres above the water surface.

During the day microbats find a nice dark place to roost such as natural tree hollows, under tree bark or small gaps under bridges and culverts. Over 20 bat boxes have been installed around the Parklands to provide extra shelter to aid these useful creatures in having a well-deserved rest!

A recent bat tour held during September Biodiversity Month allowed participants to listen to the calls of microbats as they hunted through the night sky. The tour offered a great opportunity to learn more about these fascinating creatures.  

So this Halloween, know that there’s no reason to fret about these nighttime buddies. Although bats have been used as a symbol of dark and frightening things, they are in fact fascinating mammals that serve an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. While you enjoy your lollies and chocolate, think of these unseen gardeners and pest exterminators that will be helping us till sunrise, and every other night after that. And remember, Australian microbats will NOT suck your blood!

Myotis Macropus is Australia’s only fishing bat and 1 of 12 species of microbat recorded at the Park. Cute! (c) Andrew Scott_North

The Southern Myotis is Australia’s only fishing bat and 1 of 12 species of microbat recorded at the Park (c) Andrew Scott

 Greater Broad-nosed Bat eating a delicious mealworm in under a minute during an authorised survey © Sarah Curran

White-striped Free-tailed Bats leaving their maternity roost to start their nighttime hunt © Dr Leroy Gansalves