Meeting the neighbours: common pipistrelle bats

Meeting the neighbours: common pipistrelle bats

Common pipistrelle bat - Tom Marshall

The sun is setting on an idyllic summer’s day. You look up to admire the twilight sky when suddenly you see a flash of black whirl through the air, and then another and another! Welcome to the mysterious twilight world of the pipistrelle bat.
A pipistrelle bat perched on someone's hand

(C) Terry Whittaker/2020VISION

Where can I spot a pipistrelle?

Seemingly silent, weighing no more than a pound coin and small enough to fit in a matchbox, the common pipistrel bat isn’t exactly the easiest creature to spot, so it helps to know when and where to find them.

These adorable, mouselike mammals come out of hibernation from March, hungry and ready to fill up on as many lacewings, mayfly, and mosquitoes as they can get their tiny little claws on. In fact, despite their miniature size these hungry creatures can devour as many as 3,000 insects per night!

You're most likely to spot them around 20 minutes after sunset, whilst there’s still some light in the sky. Keep an out for their ‘Bat Signal’ like silhouette as they erratically whip in and out sight, patrolling woodland edges, waterways, gardens, parks, streetlights and city skies.

How to ID

The common pipistrelle bat is our smallest and most common bat. It has dark, golden brown fur, a slightly paler underside and a dark mask around its face. They roost in tree holes, bat boxes and even the roof spaces of houses, often in small colonies.

Bats use echolocation to chase their prey through the night sky. Each species has its own unique series of clicks and pops which are mostly inaudible to human ears, but with specialist equipment we can tune in to their hidden world and ID our furry, nocturnal friends

A pipistrelle bat poking its head out of its roost (C) Harry Hog

WildNet - Harry Hogg

Helping your friendly neighbourhood bats

Despite their name, common pipistrelle populations have more than halved since the 1960’s. These declines are due to a variety of factors, including the reduction of foraging habitat, loss of roosting sites, urbanisation and increased pesticide use (which reduces their insect food supply).

You can help the bats in your area by:

Giving them a home - Put up a bat box close to the eaves of your house or on a tree at least 4m above the ground. Preferably in a sheltered, sunny, south facing  direction near hedges and lines of trees.

Attracting their prey - Plant night-scented flowers to attract moths and other night-flying pollinating insects that pipistrelles will eat

Reducing or removing artificial lighting – Bats are nocturnal creatures and are easily confused by artificial lighting. Help protect them by closing your curtains at night and turning off your outdoor lighting.