According to the radio show NightVale there’s a spider on you at all times, especially now. I wouldn’t worry about it too much as research has shown we eat a lot of them at night as we sleep so it’ll be gone in the morning.
If you haven’t stopped reading, you might be pleased to know that none of the spiders in Ireland are poisonous apart from the false widow and giant house spider (the one that’s on your back) which can cause a bit of swelling.
Another creature instilling a feeling of unease is the bat. We see a lot of them silently flying around at dusk. It’s actually a really good sign as they can eat up to 3000 insects a day (and pollinate flowers), so if you have them around the house, it’s an indication of a diverse web of life in the garden.
Bat Conservation Ireland and the Centre for Irish Bat Research completed a study of ‘Landscape Conservation for Bats in Ireland’ a few years ago and this information is on their website and the DCC web pages. The study highlights the key types of bat habitats, and nine species of bat that appear regularly in Ireland. All are protected by national and European Union legislation.
The study showed that broadleaf woodland, mixed forest and riparian (waterway) habitats were favourable to bat species in Ireland however bog, marsh and heath were generally not attractive as bat habitats. Throughout the year, bats may use a variety of roosts of different types depending on changing metabolic and social requirements. In Ireland, the majority of bat roosts are in buildings.
The study found that all species except the rarely recorded Nathusius’ Pipistrelle and the Lesser Horseshoe Bat are found across County Donegal.
Some found in County Donegal were:
Soprano Pipistrelle: may be the most common bat found throughout the county but its areas of greatest occurrence are likely to be found in the north.
Daubenton’s Bat: most likely to be found around the margins of the county and around low-lying rivers.
Natterer’s Bat: is most abundant in the east and south of the county.
Leisler’s Bat: prime areas are mostly in the east and northeast from Dunfanaghy to Portsalon and south to Castlefinn and in the extreme south of the county around Donegal Town and Bundoran.
Common Pipistrelle: areas most suitable for the common for this bat include the east of the county, the northern coast and the south of the county.
Brown Long-eared Bat: is found in coastal areas around the county as well as the area between Ramelton, Kilmacrennan and Letterkenny.
Whiskered Bat: has limited areas of suitability and these are in the Kilmacrennan-Letterkenny area.
On the whole, County Donegal, is not particularly suitable for Nathusius’ Pipistrelle bats but some areas of suitability exist along the east of the Inishowen peninsula. Along the River Foyle and in the extreme south of the county near the Donegal-Sligo border.
Threats to bats
Remedial timber treatment is probably the greatest threat to bats. Many buildings are treated annually with chemicals that are lethal to bats and poisonous to mammals generally. Even if bats are not present during treatment, they can pick up poison by inhalation of vapour, or contact with treated surfaces, for many years afterwards.
Where ongoing repair to bridges is required, unsympathetic maintenance can threaten the bats utilising a bridge.
Many underground roosting sites such as caves, mines and tunnels have become inaccessible to bats because entrances have been blocked, either for safety, or by rubbish tipping.
Disturbance of hedgerows and treelines can interfere with vital commuting routes for bats and lead to island bat populations.
Removal of damaged trees may cause loss of bat roosts.
Many bat species use trees as roosts for maternity, hibernation or mating. Damaged trees are particularly suitable. The bats will roost in cracks and crevices, under ivy, or in dead trees.
Roost sites in buildings are reduced when access holes, such as ventilators, are blocked, and cavity walls are filled for insulation. Retiling and underfelting of old buildings often result in the exclusion of colonies
Common concerns and the facts about living with bats
- Bats are not rodents and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation.
- Bats do not build nests and do not bring bedding material into the roost; nor do they bring their food into the roost.
- All bats in Ireland only eat insects and some eat thousands of these each night. So they are a great form of natural pest control!
- Bat droppings are dry and crumble away to dust. As a result, there are no known health risks associated with them in Ireland.
- Female bats have only one baby a year, so bat roosts do not become ‘infested’.
- Most bats are seasonal visitors to buildings – they are unlikely to live (roost) in the same building all year round. Many bats are loyal to their roosts and so usually return to the same buildings year after year.
- Bats are clean and sociable animals and spend many hours grooming themselves.
- You are not at risk of rabies if you do not handle a bat.
- Bats are not interested in sharing your living space. They may roost in an attic void or roof but the only time they come into the lived-in part of houses is by mistake.
- Bats are protected.
They have been known to get caught in your hair though, and there might be one in there right now. You’d better check.
For more information, check out ‘Bat Conservation Ireland’,Virginia,Co. Cavan. On the web (not spiders) batconservationireland.org