‘Hibernate like a bat this winter’
As I think about what bats are doing at this time of year, I realise that as we start 2021 and plod through a third lockdown, we really should take a leaf out of their book - an excellent life strategy that has evolved over millions of years. Bats hibernate when air temperatures are consistently low and their food source is no longer present. Hibernation slows down their metabolism allowing them to save vital energy reserves benefiting them in the long run by increasing their lifespan. A common pipistrelle has an average life expectancy of 4-5 years, a long time for such a small mammal. The larger serotine bat has even been found to live as long as 21 years in the wild! They hunker down in places where the temperatures are cool and stable such as ice houses on large country estates, deep crevices in bridges, trees, cellars and cave networks. They have an incredible adaptation in their feet enabling them to cling to surfaces through these long periods. Joints lock into place and the weight of the bat keeps their tiny claws locked in place so they can relax into a deep torpor with no fear of falling to the floor. If temperatures fluctuate during the winter months and insects take flight, bats will wake from their deep torpor and make an essential trip out for food. During the summer months, bats form colonies for breeding purposes but in the winter months UK bat species tend to hibernate on their own or in small groups; their own form of social distancing and support bubbles.
Maybe we should all slow down over the next couple of months during this lockdown? We could see this slower pace of life as a positive change to our typically busy and stressful lives and it could really benefit our health.