Every morning before breakfast my husband dust mops the house while I cook breakfast— God, I love that man. (He also does dishes, but I don’t want to make you too jealous.)
One morning on his rounds he called me outside to our wide porch.
“Look,” he said, pointing at the corner of the veranda.“What do you think made this?”
“Maybe one of those animals Miss Olga used to call ‘night monkeys.’” I said.
“Well, whatever it was, it shit all over the floor.”
True enough, it had. It also urinated and left behind three half-eaten fruits that looked like small guavas.
We left a porch fan on the next night, but the same droppings and fruit mess were there the next day. The third night we applied pepper spray to the rafters. Next morning- nothing.
But what was it? Whatever it was, it was quiet. The rafters where it roosted and ate its dinner are right outside our bedroom door. I’m a light sleeper, so anything walking around on the veranda would have woken me, I’m pretty sure… although, my husband tells me I now snore.
Coincidentally, that same week a facebook friend posted a picture of a cute, furry bat on her timeline. It got me thinking. Could it have been a bat? I was still voting for the marsupial night creature, but started looking into it. According to Costa Rica (dot) com, there are are approximately 1100 bat species worldwide. Of those, 110 live in Costa Rica.
Not many people think of bats as being mammals, but they are. All bats are born with forelimbs that develop into wings, making them the only mammal capable of natural flight. They are covered with fur, are warm blooded, and their babies develop inside their mothers who deliver by live birth. According to the articles I read, most bats have one pup a year that are fully formed at birth. But their wings are not developed enough to fly until they are six weeks to four months old, depending in the species.
There are megabats and microbats. Megabats are larger than their cousins the microbat, they have a claws on their second toe (I’d call that an elbow, but I’m not a scientist), no belly fur, use their eyes for navigation, as well as echolocation, and largely eat fruit rather than insects.
The Jamaican Fruit bat eat guavas, papaya, and banana. When these are scarce, they will eat nectar, pollen, and a few insects. Guava, huh… my porch was littered with half eaten guava fruits.
Last month, according to The Tico Times, there was a bat conference held in San José where researchers came together to talk and compare studies. “An estimated 650 researchers, professors, and community educators gathered… to hear presentations on new bat species, research on behavior… and to learn how to communicate [their] importance to the public.”
One highlighted bat species was the Honduran white bat. These thumb-sized bats nest in banana and heliconia leaves. The male and his harem of females chew the leaf until it drops over them forming a tent from the elements. How could anyone think badly about these cute little guys? But it definitely wasn’t our bat.
The more I looked into it, the more the Jamaican Fruit bat appeared to be our night visitor. The guavas kind of clinched it for me. Their bodies are about the size of a sparrow but their wing span is quite long, but they barely weigh a thing. These bats actually use their eyes as well as the famed bat sonar to guide themselves through the night skies.
Bats are our friends. They pollenate crops, scoop up thousands of insects that might otherwise ruin our crops, and Jamaican Fruit bats spread fruit seeds throughout the jungle. Scientists are studying their ability to move by echo in the hopes it will help the blind navigate. Lastly, their manure, called guano, is some of the most fertile in existence.
Little side-story. Some expats who lived near us years ago had a colony of bats in the ceiling. Apparently the guano was so thick it slid down the double walls of their house and oozed out a light switch. This is why we bult our house with single wall construction. But our creative neighbors made lemonade with the situation, bagged up the guano and sold it to some local pot growers.
And just look at that face. How could anyone not love that face? Even with that fleshy nose flap thingy and those claws on its wings.
It’s just too cute.