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Bats have always been the objects of stories and movies. You either like them or loathe them, but much of their stigma once you really think about it comes from fantastic stories- stories in particular depicting Bats as evil blood sucking vampires for example, that have not exactly done much for their reputations. People fear and often shudder at the mere mention of the word bat. So imagine my surprise on meeting Mr John Parsons, bat expert extraordinaire, his hand eagerly out in greeting,  face alight with joy and excitement and all because we were about to spend the next hour or so talking bats…. Micro Bats in fact. Never heard of Micro Bats? Well let me tell you, you’re not the first! But before we go any further, and your bat sensory shudder mode clicks in to prevent you from reading further I thought I’d give you an idea of exactly how small and cute a Micro Bat actually is.

Have you noticed the finger joints? This little fellow is a full grown Eastern Freetail Bat and measures between 2 and 3cms in length. So now is the time to ‘oh’ and ‘ahh’ because you have to admit he really is very cute! Another indicator of just how small Micro bats are, is their weight. Micro Bats weigh between 2 and 8 grams and to help you conceptualise this, a 5 cent piece weighs 3 grams. There are even some types of Micro Bats that are as small as the nail on your little finger!

I must have you at least a little intrigued by now!

We are going to spend the next few hours talking and learning about really, really tiny….bats and in truth I am really quite excited to hear their story.

My first question to John before we got too far into the interview was to ask him,

‘What is the exact message you hope this story gets out to our readers?’

John looked at me and said simply ‘We are losing them in droves!’

Australia has 76 species of Micro Bats and due to urban sprawl and significant land clearing resulting in the loss of native trees and habitation our bat populations are decreasing rapidly. Once a female bat loses her home it can take her anything between 4 and 6 years to find a new one. The female bat will not breed without a secure home. It is important to understand that Bats only have one baby a year. So if you take this into account and multiply it by the number of trees and possible homes lost each year, then multiply this again with the no breeding time of between 4-6 years, and then this again by the number of bats not being born during this period that should have given birth to others over those years, it is not difficult to see why our bat populations are decreasing so significantly.

So why does losing these Bats matter so much you might ask, and the answer is one that will certainly surprise you!

Did you know that Micro Bat’s can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes each a night and are far more effective pollinators than bees?

Imagine a world where mosquitoes had no native predators. Where Malaria, Ross River fever, Dengue and Zika viruses ran rampant. Imagine the effect on our health systems, our lifestyles. And it is just not mosquito numbers that these bats help keep in balance. Being meat eaters they are also very useful in helping control crop eating insects such as cicadas, moths, and grasshoppers. In addition from a more domestic perspective, Micro Bats are also very useful in helping to control the bane of most homes- the dreaded fly and cockroach. Without Micro Bats helping control these insect numbers, it is not only farmer’s insecticide costs, but also everyday household insecticide costs that would increase greatly. And let’s not mention the effects that the increased chemical use would again have on our health.

There has been much publicity about bee numbers decreasing worldwide and of the effect that the loss of their pollination abilities would have on both our flora and fauna. But did you know that Micro Bats are a far greater and more effective pollinator? As a meat eater, Micro Bats burrow deep into the heart of all types of flowering flora searching for the small insects that reside inside. By doing this the whole of the bats face is covered with pollen. The bat will then flit from flower to flower in its search, effectively pollinating as it goes. As most pollination happens at night, more particularly after midnight – this perfectly times with the habits of our quiet achievers – the Micro Bat.

So these little creatures are more than important to us, they are vital, not only to ensuring our sustained wellbeing, but also that of our flora and fauna. It is a big responsibility that rests on the wings of these tiny creatures! A responsibility that is becoming more difficult to maintain as through no fault of their own, their native habitats and breeding grounds are slowly being eradicated by urban sprawl and unprecedented land clearing.

It’s all a bit daunting isn’t it?

But this is where John Parsons along with his fellow researchers and the program created through Fraser Coast Micro Bats, a fully licensed and insured entity, come into play.  Working closely in conjunction with the Sunshine Coast University the program devised by Fraser Coast Micro Bats is one that is quite unique and hopes to recreate thriving artificial Bat environments that work within community consensus and constraints and helps restore Bat populations by creating new homes in places where they have been lost.

John and his fellow researchers have spent years investigating Micro Bats, in particular looking into a way to create a sustainable living environment for them in a world ever decreasing in trees. His investigations have discovered incredible facts such as variant temperature levels in bat habitations, and that a female bat likes high perspiration and requires a humid environment to nest in while breeding. This research is vital as the projects main aim is create effective bat homes that can be attached to poles, trees, bushes…anything really to replace those homes lost through tree felling.

There are three main types of bats- forest bats, grass bats and cave bats. As such bat homes must be able to fit into the respective environments and need to offer the kind of protection that caters to all forms of habitat ie: holes in trees, burrows in the ground as well as in fallen trees and crevices in caves.

The homes that John has designed range from non treated timber boxes made from recycled pallets, all painted bottle green with water based paint, to plastics tubes of various lengths, some painted, others not. The plastic tubes are particularly important to help maintain the humidity levels that a breeding female needs. The boxes are non intrusive to the environment and can be placed anywhere. The Group have set up 6 projects in different locations throughout the Fraser Coast all slightly variant from the other. With different mixes of bat boxes and tubes- painted and unpainted on either timber poles or metal ones, the Group monitors these sites regularly to note the effectiveness of each of the different mixes. John is proud to say that his boxes have not only become homes to Micro Bats but also to other native animals.

For this project to be successful, not only research and observation are vital, but so is educating the local community not only with the results of these studies but also with the intent to dispel myths that do Micro Bats disfavour. For example Micro Bats do not smell- they have no odour due to their tiny size and small family communities. Micro Bats are generally unobtrusive in all ways. They are the small unsung Heroes that work diligently to keep our world safer. They are so good at being obscure that many of us before this article did not even know they existed.

John’s passion to increase Micro Bat populations and grow awareness of these tiny creatures stems from knowing the importance these bats have to the sustainability of our environment and to our overall health and wellbeing. John has even created a study program for kids to learn in school in conjunction with the instigation of a bat home settlement of 6 boxes within Urangan school grounds, and 20 boxes in Fraser Coast Anglican College, so that our children will learn from an early age through their own observation and study the importance of Micro Bats and as an extension of this, the fine balance of our environment. This part of the project has been going for 4 years and been made possible with the support of The Burnett Mary Regional Group who donated funds not only to publish a book on Micro Bats, but also to print the study pack that both teachers and students use in the teaching program.

The next step in the projects research is to create an artificial forest. This has never been done before and will consist of 50 timber poles with 50 boxes and 50 tubes being installed for bat habitation on a local sugar cane farmer’s property. The farmer sprays his crop with chemicals 3 to 4 times a year at a cost of around $30k annually. It is hoped that the Bat boxes will encourage bats to migrate onto the farm and eat the insects that currently threaten the crop. The study intends to be a year by year one that records not only Bat population numbers but also how much money is saved annually on the purchase of chemicals. The research will also factor in a dollar amount for time saved by not having to do the spraying as well as fuel savings etc from less use of farm equipment.

It is a sad thing to say, but without putting a total dollar figure to the amount of money an active and thriving Micro bat population can bring to our agricultural industry, it is feared that community and government support to save this vital species will not happen.

We will be following up how this program is working by talking to the teachers and kids from Fraser Coast Anglican School in our next edition as well as some of the results of John’s research. John also lectures regularly at the Discovery Centre in Hervey Bay should wish to hear more about this incredible Bat. Also If you would like to learn more about these fantastic little creatures please go to

Or email Fraser Coast Micro Bats directly at

Have you picked up a copy of our magazine?

Available at Hervey Bay Stockland’s, Night Owl, Food n Groove, Maryborough Art Gallery, and various other newsagents throughout the Fraser Coast..

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