Research, Technology

Bats pretend to be wasps - why do they do it?

Bats are most often perceived by people asbloodthirsty in the truest sense of the word night monsters that attack large animals and suck their blood. Vampires certainly exist among them, and we even talked about how they like to "dine" in the company of friends. But most species of these animals are small animals that feed on insects and are themselves afraid of some predators. Sometimes they are even attacked by “cannibal” bats, but owls are the most dangerous. These birds are themselves active at night and are excellent hunters that are difficult to dodge. Therefore, small defenseless animals have to go to all sorts of tricks to stay alive. As it turned out recently, some of them pretend to be wasps, that is, very dangerous insects that even birds of prey try to avoid.

Bats can pretend to be wasps and hornets


  • 1 How bats scare away owls
  • 2 How owls react to the buzz of bats
  • 3 Why owls are afraid of hornets and wasps
  • 4 Mimicry in nature

How do bats scare away owls?

Researchers from the University of Naplesnamed after Frederick II, while studying large bats, they once discovered that the individuals they caught were able to buzz like bees, wasps or hornets. Moreover, this buzzing was very different from the sounds that bats usually make during the hunt.

Then the scientists caught a few more individuals andrecorded these strange sounds. Then, with the help of a special computer program, the recording was compared with the buzzing of some species of bees and wasps that are found in European forests. Half the time, the app couldn't tell the difference between buzzing bats and buzzing insects. This suggests that the sounds made by bats are indeed acoustically similar to the buzzing of insects.

Best of all, bats imitate the buzzing of hornets.

The most interesting thing is that volatiles are most successfulmice can copy the sounds of large wasps and hornets. These insects are distinguished by the strongest poison. Their bites are especially painful, most likely, birds are most afraid of them.

How do owls react to the buzzing of bats?

To finally make sure that the batsimitate the sounds of insects in order to intimidate their enemies, scientists decided to listen to the recording of owls. To complete the experiment, they also included a recording of real wasps and hornets, as well as sounds not associated with these insects. I must say that many species of owls are well acquainted with hornets and wasps, as they share their habitat with them.

Several species of owls participated in the experiment.Among them were birds raised in captivity, as well as those caught in the wild. As a result, scientists found that all birds, when they heard the buzz of insects or bats, flew away from the speakers. But the strongest reaction was observed in owls that grew up in the wild.

Wild owls are most afraid of hornets

When you turn on the usual noise, such a reaction in birdsdid not have. In some cases, they even flew up to the speaker with interest. Thus, as scientists report in the journal Current Biology, they were able to record the first case when a mammal imitates the sound made by insects.

Why are owls afraid of hornets and wasps?

Scientists still can't tell how common waspsand hornets sting birds. Owls are known to be nocturnal hunters. Insects, on the other hand, are active during the day and sleep at night. Therefore, theoretically, owls should not be attacked by wasps and hornets. However, it is known that birds try to avoid them. For example, if wasps populate nests intended for owls, birds do not even try to explore them.

From this it can be concluded that the negative experienceOwls already had “communication” with stinging insects. Therefore, the fear of buzzing is noted even in those birds that have grown up in captivity. But even more interesting, why did bats imitate these insects? Obviously, their ancestors also encountered hornets, wasps and bees.

A caterpillar that resembles a snake is a prime example of mimicry

mimicry in nature

Mimicry is the similarity of one kind of livingorganisms with others for defensive purposes. This phenomenon is often found in nature. For example, the scarlet king snake, which is completely harmless, is very similar to the poisonous coral snake. Most often, mimicry concerns color and shape.

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Acoustic mimicry is also not a unique phenomenon,but it is extremely rare and is mainly recorded in birds. For example, the burrowing owl, which settles in the burrows of rodents so as not to be disturbed, imitates the hissing of a snake. Sometimes acoustic mimicry is used in nature for hunting. So the predatory grasshopper Chlorobalius leucoviridis imitates the sounds of the mating signals of female cicadas. Thus, he attracts male cicadas, which he enjoys eating. Now, bats have also been surprised by this ability.