The Truth About Bats’ Diet & If They Drink Blood
Generally feared by humans and believed to live off of human or animal blood, bats have assumed a bit of a bad reputation. Surprisingly, only three bat species actually drink blood as a food source — and they’re not in the United States.
Vampire bats, which are the only bats that consume blood, reside in Central and South America. And even more importantly, they do not like human blood.
Other bats have a diet of fruit, seeds, and pollen — acting as pollinators of fruit plants and flowers. However, these fruit bats, too, are not found in the United States either.
All bat species found in the United States are called microbats, a smaller category of bat that is primarily insectivorous — meaning they eat insects, worms, and other invertebrates.
For the most part, these microbats eat flying insects like mosquitoes, beetles, and moths. Commonly seen bats in the Northeastern United States — specifically New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont — include the northern bat, little brown bat, Indiana bat, tricolored bat, big brown bat, and small-footed bat.
Incredibly, these bats eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour. Consuming up to 50 percent of their body weight each night, these eating machines act as natural pest controllers against insects. Typically hunting in the early evening and at night, northeastern bats are mammals that like to prey on insects along shorelines and forest edges, catching insects mid-flight by using their wings and mouths.
Bats in the Northeast United States are being threatened, however, by a rapidly spreading disease that has dwindled Massachusetts’ bat population to less than 1 percent of what it once was. Originally discovered in a cave near Albany, New York, the disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) develops a white fungus around the bat's nose that erodes vital parts of the bat that help keep it alive during hibernation and hunting.
White-nose syndrome continues to spread and is significantly affecting bat populations in the region. That’s not good for natural (and free!) pest control, a healthy and sound ecosystem, and to those of us who appreciate bats — no matter how few of us there may be.