Greater Mouse-Eared Bats Buzz Like Angry Hornets

Greater mouse-eared bats
Greater mouse-eared bats
Courtesy of Gilles San Martin (Flcikr CC0)

The Greater mouse-eared bats mimic the intense buzz of angry hornets to avoid being eaten by a ravenous predator.  They are also known as Myotis myotis and can live around three to 14 years.

These bats can reach eight to nine centimeters (3.15 to 3.54 inches) and weigh around 45 grams. They have a wingspan of 40 centimeters (15.748).

Their dorsal side (a.k.a. backside) is brown to reddish-brown in coloring. The Greater mouse-eared bat has a dirty white or beige-colored frontside (ventral side). Their wing membranes are brownish in color.

The females of this species are slightly bigger than the males.

Greater Mouse-Eared Bats
Courtesy of Ted Moravec (Flickr PDM)

They are generally found in most European countries except Estonia, Finland, Denmark, Latvia, and the Scandinavian Peninsula. Greater mouse-eared bats are also found on many Mediterranean islands, such as Malta, Sicily,  and the Gymnesian Islands. Additionally, these bats can be seen in Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, and Lebanon.

Greater mouse-eared bats normally forage in open deciduous forest edges, woodlands, and pastures. They roost underground throughout the year where the bats also hibernate. These bats have also been known to roost in attics and lofts of buildings in Northern Europe.

Greater mouse-eared bats are highly social creatures and can live in colonies of 500 to over 4,500 bats. Sometimes they will roost with other bats, such as Common bent-wings bats and long-fingered bats.

These bats are nocturnal foragers, however, they do not use echolocation to capture their prey. Instead, they use echolocation only for geographical orientation. Greater mouse-eared bats locate their insect prey by listening to their noises. They feed on various arthropods such as spiders, beetles, and centipedes.

Greater mouse-eared bats mate in autumn. Females will carry one to two pups for 60 to 70 days. By two months old their young have reached independent age.

Recent research suggests that other bat species may use similar buzzing noises to deter predators from eating them. Mirjam Knörnschild, a senior scientist at the Museum for Natural History in Berlin, Germany stated, “It makes total sense to me that bats, with their remarkable vocal abilities and sophisticated control over their vocalizations, resort to acoustic means to fool predators.”

Danilo Russo, senior author of the study and a professor of ecology at the Università Degli Studi di Napoli Federico II (UNINA) in Portici, Italy first heard the Greater mouse-eared bat’s distinctive buzz while in Lazio — a region located in central Italy. He and his team used soft mesh nets to catch the creatures to study them. When they would take them out of the nets “or handled the bats to process them, they buzzed like wasps or hornets.”

This caused Russo to believe they did so to avoid predation.

Written by Sheena Robertson


Live Science: Bats tell predators to ‘buzz off’ — literally; by Nicoletta Lanese
The New York Times: These Bats Buzz Like Hornets to Scare Off Predators

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Gilles San Martin‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image Courtesy of Ted Moravec‘s Flickr Page – Public Domain License0

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