Busting myths about bats

Published on 25 August 2021

Bat flying across night sky with wings in full span

If you live in the City Tea Tree Gully, you might have seen or heard bats in areas near blossoming gum trees.

While their noises may cause you concern, particularly if you hear them in your own backyard, there’s nothing to worry about.

We spoke to the bat experts at Fauna Rescue SA to help us bust a few bat myths and help you appreciate these often misunderstood creatures.

Myth: There’s only one type of bat in Tea Tree Gully.

Fact: Adelaide has nine species of microbats, and one species of flying foxes.  

Microbats are small, mouse-sized bats that are insect eaters. They mainly live in tree hollows, under bark, or in sheltered man-made areas like under eaves or roof cavities.

Grey-headed flying-foxes live in a colony in Botanic Park. They fly out each night to feed on nectar, pollen and native fruits throughout Adelaide City and suburbs – even as far as Tea Tree Gully. They return to the colony at dawn. These are the ones you can hear at night.

Myth: Bats are scary and are living in my backyard.

Fact: Both grey-headed flying-foxes and microbats have no interest in humans. They naturally forage at night return to their colony during the day.

If you are concerned about bats in your backyard, you can discourage them from feeding on your fruit trees by using wildlife-friendly etting’ or individual fruit bags. Or you can just wait it out. After 4 to 8 weeks, your trees will stop producing nectar and they will move on to a new location.

If you are sitting near an outdoor light, you may see microbats catching insects that are drawn to the light source. They are after the insects not you. If you are concerned, just turn off the light. 

Myth: Bats carry a lot of diseases

Fact: There is only one virus that can be transferred from bats to humans, Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL). Less than 1% of bats carry ABL and it is only transmissible through saliva from a direct bite or scratch. It is not transmissible through urine or faeces. Seek urgent medical advice if this occurs as an ABL vaccine is available. 

More insights from Fauna Rescue SA
Unfortunately, the grey-headed flying-fox a threatened species vulnerable to extinction. Shane McCann, flying fox rescuer and educator with Fauna Rescue SA, says there are many ways you can help your local bat population. 

“While flying-foxes will only eat commercial fruit when their natural food is scarce, planting native trees can attract them to your garden. Microbats are nature’s non-chemical insect controllers, so putting up bat boxes can be beneficial to your garden and our bat population.” 

Lastly, Shane reminds us that often our own pets can be a threat too.

“Please do not let your pets out at night unattended. Dogs have been known to kill or severely injure flying foxes in backyards and cats often catch microbats.”

 When to call the Fauna Rescue bat hotline -  8486 1139 

  • If you see any bat during the day outside their colony
  • If you see a bat on powerline, low in a tree/shrub or on the ground, whether day or night, alive or dead
  • If you see a bat and are not sure if they are in trouble
  • If you're concerned about microbats in a building or a tree that's going to be removed.

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