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Bats and moths share a close, though perhaps rather one-sided relationship. As predator and prey they have evolved closely. Bats are able to navigate using a sophisticated sonar system called echolocation. Sound waves are emitted by bats and detected as they bounce back from objects or potential prey, creating a detailed ‘picture’ of the bat’s environment, which is essential in navigation and hunting for prey. Though bats are top predators some moths have developed simple hearing organs that can pick up on echolocation, allowing evasive action to be taken, whilst the tiger moths are able to emit loud clicks similar to echolocation calls, which are thought to confuse bats. All of the 16 species of bat resident in Britain are known to feed on moths, but the two British species of long-eared bat Plecotus spp., the two horseshoe bats Rhinolophus spp., Barbastelle Barbastella barbastellus and Bechstein’s Bat Myotis bechsteinii are particularly partial to moths, which form a significant part of their diet.


Bats and moths are under pressure from similar changes in our countryside, and the declining numbers of insects is inevitably going to impact upon the bats which feed upon them, so it is in the interests of bat workers and moth recorders to work together in highlighting the problems faced by both.

Some interesting facts about bats:

  • Bats are the only mammals in the world capable of powered flight.
  • There are 17 species of bats resident in the UK, representing almost a third of all our mammal species.
  • Britain's commonest bat (the pipistrelle) weighs in at just 5g, which is less than a £1 coin.
  • Bats can live up to 30 years.
  • In winter, when there are few insects around bats hibernate in the cool parts of buildings, caves
    or hollow trees.
  • Bats are not blind and can see perfectly well by daylight, as we do.
  • The Brown long-eared bat has exceptionally sensitive hearing and can hear a beetle walking on a leaf.
  • Bat populations have declined so dramatically in the UK – largely due to habitat loss - that all bats are protected by law and the Bat Conservation Trust is the only national organisation solely devoted  to the conservation of bats and their habitats.
  • With the help of thousands of volunteers the Bat Conservation Trust annually surveys bats across the UK for the National Bat Monitoring Programme to tell us how bats are faring. The charity also has an online Big Bat Map which enables the general public to log their sightings of bats that they see in their garden or local park, and look up what bats have been seen in their local area.


For further information about bats and how you can help in their conservation visit the Bat Conservation Trust website www.bats.org.uk

Some key facts about moths:

  • More than 2500 species of moth have been recorded in Britain and the Channel Islands. Moths have a wide diversity of bright colours to warn away predators and cryptic camouflage to avoid predation.
  • Moths are important in the environment. They pollinate plants and are a source of food for many other creatures, including bats and most garden birds.
  • Moths are artificially divided into the macro-Lepidoptera (larger moths) and micro-Lepidoptera (smaller moths), although in practice some of the micro-Lepidoptera are larger than the
    macro-Lepidoptera!
  • The difference between a moth and a butterfly is not always a simple one, as there are exceptions to  the rules. Not all moths fly at night, for instance. However, generally speaking butterflies have  clubbed antennae whilst the vast majority of moths do not.
  • Many moth species are declining as a result of changes within our countryside and climate change. 62 moth species became extinct in Britain during the twentieth century and the total abundance of moths has decreased by a third since the late 1960s.
  • Some of the species that arrive within our shores have travelled from Europe or even North Africa. Some come here every year and breed successfully whilst others are rare vagrants. In recent years an increasing number of species from Continental Europe appear to be colonising Britain.
  • It is a common misconception that moths eat clothes. In fact it is only the larval stage of two common species of moth that are known to feed upon clothing.
  • The study of moths has long tradition in Britain and Ireland and is growing rapidly in popularity. The National Moth Recording Scheme, set up recently by Butterfly Conservation, has gathered millions of modern and historical moth sightings from members of the public. This information will be used to identify species in decline and to underpin conservation initiatives.

Leaflets about bats, moths and NMN are available on request by phone (01929 406009) or email nmrs@butterfly-conservation.org