As Blind as a Bat – or not
The African yellow bat (Scotophilus dinganii), also known as Dingan's Bat, is a vesper bat. Commonly known as evening bats, the vesper bat family has over 300 species which thrive throughout the world due to their tolerance of human habitation.
African yellow bats are found throughout the savannahs of Africa, usually close to human habitation and are often seen flying at dusk around city suburbs.
They roost in small colonies and even singly, high up in the brickwork and rafters of houses, emerging at dusk to feed voraciously for about two hours before returning to roost. African yellow bats are easily tempted to make themselves at home in bat houses too. In the wild, they prefer hollowed out trees as a nesting place, unless they can find luxurious thatched accommodation to call home.
Being an extremely quiet species, their presence often goes undetected high up in the rafters of houses, where they live without causing any disturbance to their human hosts. While this may give some people the creeps, they do keep their surroundings clear of insects such as beetles, their favourite meal, along with flies, plant-sucking bugs, moths, flying termites and lacewings.
Vesper bats consume large amounts of insects in a single feeding and a single brown bat can eat up to 1 000 mosquito-sized insects in an hour – which has initiated studies into using bats as a natural way to reduce the incidence of malaria in affected areas.
The presence of bats can easily be detected if you pay attention for signs of their droppings, or keep an eye on likely roosting places during their feed times. Their swooping feeding habits can make an interesting spectacle during afternoon sundowners. There is no truth to the belief that they can get stuck in your hair by flying too close – their acute sense of echolocation is far too effective for that.
Echolocation refers to the bats ability to navigate in the dark by emitting pulses of very high frequency sound which bounce back off other objects, helping the bat to avoid collision or pinpoint flying prey species. Contrary to popular belief, bats are not blind, but specialise in night vision which is enhanced by this echolocation.
The African yellow bat is easily recognised by its prominent yellow belly, for which it is named. It is light brown to olive above, with clearly visible eyes and a short, broad, dog-like snout. They usually reach about 130mm in length.
Have you noticed any bats around camp?