There are nine species of bat in Ireland. All Irish bats are insectivorous. They eat a range of invertebrates including spiders, moths, mosquitoes, dung flies and beetles. But this is just the tip of the iceberg!
Do bats provide ecosystem services?
Ecosystem services are the benefits to humans provided by the natural environment and from healthy ecosystems. Pollinators, e.g. bumble bees, help us grow apple crops, and trees produce the oxygen we breathe, but did you know that bats also provide ecosystem services? The services they provide humans include seed dispersal, pollination and pest control.
The consequences of losing our bats could be enormous. In the U.S., the economic value of bats, in terms of pest control, is estimated to be worth $22.9 billion per annum. Here in Ireland, it is vital we gain a better understanding of what bats eat, how much they eat and where!
How do we find out what bats eat?
Until the advent of DNA analysis, figuring out what bats ate involved staring down microscopes for hours while trying to identify tiny pieces of insects. This was very time consuming and it was difficult to identify the prey exactly.
With techniques available now, it is possible to use DNA markers to identify the prey species in droppings in the laboratory. This means that results are much more accurate and we can identify more prey items to species level.
What do we know about what bats eat in Ireland?