Irish Species: Lesser Horseshoe Bat (Rhinolophus Hipposideros)

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Lesser Horseshoe Bat

Bats are an absolutely amazing species as they are the only living mammal that is known to have the ability to fly!

There are currently known to be 9 species of bats found in Ireland at present and the Lesser Horseshoe Bat is one of the most commonly known species on the island. The Lesser Horseshoe Bat gets its name because of the horsehoof-shaped skin that surrounds its nostrils!

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Distinctive horseshoe shaped skin surrounding the nostrils

The one distinction to be made other than the size and horse-shoed nostrils is that the Lesser Horseshoe Bat cannot crawl so it must fly. However, like all bats, this species also hangs upside down in caves while resting!

This species hibernate in roosts. The term ‘roost‘ refers to designated areas that the species choose as their resting space!

Although like all bats, they are known to be cave-dwellers, this species have been found in attics of buildings during the summer months and underground caves during the winter months when they go into hibernation for several of the colder months!

Lesser Horseshoe Bats mostly eat insects such as midges, moths, flies and lacewings! These are the types of insects that are most commonly found near the dwellings of these bat species such as woodlands and near rivers.

The breeding season for this species occurs in the autumn when the weather becomes warmer. The female can choose when to become pregnant post intercourse, as the females can retain the sperm in order to ensure the birth will be during the most optimal months of the year!

The female will begin to construct a roost in preparation for the new offspring the following April and will give birth between mid-June and early August. The male does not play a part in rearing the offspring.  The offspring will begin to exercise their wings after a month but will stay feeding off of the mother for about 6 weeks.

 

Bats make calls as they fly and listen to the returning echoes to build up a sonic map of their surroundings!

The bat can tell how far away something is by how long it takes the sounds to return to them. These calls are usually pitched at a frequency too high for humans to hear by ear!

The Lesser Horseshoe Bat is known to be the only bat species on the island that is capable of reaching echo-ing frequencies between 105 kHz and 120 kHz higher than other bat species!

Conservation Status: 

The Lesser Horseshoe Bat species are found in Ireland across six main counties; Mayo, Galway, Clare, Limerick, Cork and Kerry!

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Map showing the distribution of the Lesser Horseshoe Bats in Ireland – Taken from the Bat Conservation Ireland Website

Currently it is thought that the populations of this bat species in Ireland is increasing with approximately over 14,000 individuals thought to inhabit the island.

As for many of the native Irish mammals, this species are protected under the Wildlife Act 1976 and the Wildlife (Amendment) Act 2000. This species is also protected under the EC Directive on Conservation of Natural Habitats and the EU Habitats Directive. This level of European protection means that there are Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) designated across Ireland and within other EU countries for this species.

There are many wildlife organisations in Ireland that manage these bat species’ populations such as the Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT) and the Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT). However one of the most notable organisations is the Bat Conservation Ireland group.

Interesting Facts: 

Body Temperature: During hibernation, these bats will reduce their natural body temperature of 35ºC to the same temperature of the underground cave they are hibernating in – usually around 8ºC or less! (This is done to save energy while hibernating).

Girl Gang: It is common for female lesser horseshoe bats to ‘hang out’ together, especially around the time they give birth! When people find bats congregating in groups together it is usually all females that are near their due date and females that haven’t mated yet!

Worldwide Family: There are 71 different horseshoe bat species known globally but the Lesser Horseshoe Bat is the only horseshoe bat species in Ireland.

Disease: All bat species are known to carry the Rabies Virus – this includes the Lesser Horseshoe Bat species in Ireland! The Rabies Virus is incredibly dangerous to humans because there is a 100% mortality rate in humans who show symptoms!

However, this species is incredibly important for biodiversity and ecosystem balance as they suppress populations of nuisance insects such as midges and flys!

 

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