Bat poo in your garden? Researchers want to hear from you

30 Jul 2021

Prof Emma Teeling, head of UCD’s BatLab. Image: Bryan O'Brien

UCD’s BatLab and Bat Conservation Ireland have launched a new ‘citizen science’ website and are asking the public to send in bat droppings.

Researchers at University College Dublin (UCD) are looking to explore the benefits of bats – and are asking the public to get involved.

Batsandbugs.ie is a citizen science website that has been launched by UCD’s BatLab and Bat Conservation Ireland, supported by the Community Foundation of Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.

It is part of a project that aims to study the impact of bats on our ecosystem and how they benefit humans, specifically how they help control insect pests in Ireland. Researchers want to better understand what bats eat and are planning to find out using bat poo.

This is where the public comes in. People around the country who have bats on their property are being asked to collect droppings and send them to the UCD BatLab. Info on how to collect samples and get involved in the project can be found on the new website.

“I’m so excited by the launch of this dynamic project. There is so much information in bat poop!” said Prof Emma Teeling, head of UCD’s BatLab.

Teeling, who is also a member of UCD’s Earth Institute, said that the lab will use state-of-the-art DNA technologies on bat droppings to uncover what they eat and identify which pests they feed on. This will help the researchers better understand how bats maintain balance in the ecosystem.

Dr Niamh Roche of Bat Conservation Ireland said that charity’s work has been helped significantly by thousands of people who have contributed to monitoring and detecting bats across the island of Ireland.

“With this project we are asking for help from those who play a key role in Irish bat conservation – custodians of bat roosts. By participating they will find out more about the species of bat they host, along with information on what kinds of insects bats feed on in their area.”

Bats, of which there are nine species in Ireland, are known to benefit humans through seed distribution, pollination and pest control, eating prey such as spiders, moths, dung flies and beetles.

But the climate crisis and use of insecticides have threatened the mammal’s existence. During Ireland’s recent heatwave, bats were driven out of their natural habitats and spotted over houses, fields and waterways.

Researchers said the consequences of losing bats could be “enormous”, so it is vital that we gain a better understanding of what bats eat, how much they eat and where.

A study published late last year found that the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin are home to the majority of Ireland’s bat species, which avail of the site’s woodlands, pastures and pond.

Vish Gain is a journalist and copywriter with Silicon Republic

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