Indigenous mammals a bit batty

Bats are the only native mammals in the Cayman Islands. There are nine distinct species of bats here and one endemic subspecies found only on Grand Cayman. All are beneficial to the environment and rarely interact with people.

Only one of our 10 types is known to use bat houses or roost in roofs.

Most of our bats live in caves or in dense foliage.

Of the 10 kinds of bats that live here, only two eat fruit. This information is sourced from www.caymanwildlife.org written by Lois Blumenthal and photographs were provided by Courtney Platt, www.courtneyplatt.com .

White-shouldered Bat

White-shouldered Bat
Phyllops falcatus

Many people think that a bat is just a bat, but that is akin to saying that a bird is just a bird.

Cayman Islands Bats are not all the same! There are 10 very different kinds here and the Vampire Bat is not in Cayman.

The term rat bat has nothing to do with rats, but was used in old days to distinguish between the bats that are mammals and a large moth which was also known as a bat locally.

Bat species are as different as bird species – no one would confuse a parrot with a pelican. Some of our bats are very rare, and some are important to the control of insects, including crop pests like moths and beetles, as well as mosquitoes.

Even fruit bats, though sometimes a nuisance to farmers, are actually eating up to 25 per cent insects found on fruit crops, so they may be preventing more damage than they inflict.

Fruit bats also clean up overripe fruits in the wild and on farms, which prevents them from becoming breeding grounds for even more destructive insects.

When fruit bats are eliminated from an ecosystem, crop damage from pests becomes worse.

White-shouldered Bat

Phyllops falcatus

This bat is extremely rare and is a Caribbean endemic. It eats only a small wild fruit, like figs, is not a crop pest and will not live in caves or bat houses. It roosts in very small groups in large old fig trees and is found in the Lower Valley Forest on Grand Cayman, on Cuba and Haiti. This bat is completely dependant upon forest for its survival. Thought to be extirpated until the recent rediscovery, but has not been reassessed since Hurricane Ivan. Possibly extirpated.

Velvety Free-tailed Bat

Molossus molossus

This bat is very common and eats only insects, never fruit. It lives in roof spaces and bat houses only – it is rarely found in caves. This bat is very small, but large colonies are of great benefit in insect control. Each individual bat eats about 1,000 moths, beetles and mosquitoes every night.

Red Bat

Lasiurius spp unknown

This insect-eating bat roosts alone in trees. It does not use bat houses or caves. This is a newly documented species for the Cayman Islands. It was probably always here, but just not seen due to its solitary and reclusive habits. This is the only bat known to have twins; most bat species have only one young per year.

Join the National Trust to help care for local wildlife! Remember that baby bats are born in June, so if you have bats in your roof now is the time to move them to a bat house. For questions about bats, to arrange a free visit to approve a bat house location, or to arrange a free slide show for your school or group, please visit or contact the Trust at 949-0121 or [email protected].

Last week’s answer: The common purple and golden basslet is the Fairy Basslet.

Trivia question: What is a propagule?

Look for the answer in next week’s column.

The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Lang, development and education specialist at the Trust. The Trust can be contacted at 949-0121 or via email at www.nationaltrust.org.ky

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