The Barbastelle bat is a medium sized bat with a body length of about 5-6cm and a wing span just under 30cm. It has a slightly frosted look due to the fact its fur which is a dark brown has white tips, it is this which gives the bat its name which is Latin for ‘Star beard’ referring to the frosted beard of white hairs on its lower lip. It has a short nose and wide ears with a dark grey underside. They are thought to live up to 23 years.
In summer they make their homes in roofs of buildings, tree holes and caves; in winter months (in the UK from October to April) they hibernate.
They mate before the onset of winter (females become sexually active at 2 years) sometimes in their hibernation nest (hibernaculum) with the female giving birth in June to normally one or two young, the males remain separate from the females at this time.
The Barbastelle favours wooded river valleys and mountain regions as these areas are rich in small flies and midges, and prefer broadleaf forests. They are found across Europe to the Caucasus Mountains but are not found in Spain, Albania or Greece despite being found in North Africa. In the UK they number less than 5,000 with loss of broadleaf habitat and use of insecticides thought to have had a negative impact. They are classified as vulnerable by the 2000 IUCN Red list and the Barbastelle is a priority species for English Natures Species Recovery Programme.
Barbastelle hunt low over water or higher within trees, they are fast and agile with prey consisting of small insects as their bite is weak and small. Typical prey is flies, and smaller moths taken in flight but they will also take spiders and small insects off plants. They are unable to bite through the hard shells of beetles and it is thought that the decline in prey due to the use of insecticides has affected their population.For more on British bats see the Bat Conservation Trust:
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