Cohabitation and predation by insectivorous bats on eared moths in subterranean roosts

Authors


*C. R. Pavey. E-mail: chris.pavey@nt.gov.au

Abstract

Most regions of the world support moth species that use caves as diurnal roosts and/or as overwintering and mating sites. Although subterranean roosts are often also occupied by insectivorous bats, nothing is known about moth–bat interaction at these sites. The frequency of cohabitation and the dynamics of moth–bat interaction at roosts were examined during surveys at 30 known bat roosts in eastern Australia; 15 disused mines and 15 natural caves. Moths and bats cohabited in 20 roosts (67%); however, only two species of eared moths, Speiredonia spectans and S. mutabilis (Noctuidae), were observed. These large (wingspan up to 75 mm) species show a classic escape response to ultrasound. Moths used roosts occupied by bats with both frequency modulated (FM) (four species) and constant frequency (CF) (two species) echolocation calls. Signal frequencies of these bats had ranges of 23–25 and 44–71 kHz. Moths were absent from roosts occupied by high-frequency (>140 kHz) CF bats. Predator–prey interaction was assessed by studying a sub-sample of six roosts occupied by S. spectans and the horseshoe bat Rhinolophus megaphyllus. Speiredonia spectans and R. megaphyllus cohabited roosts throughout the year. Bats captured and consumed moths in these roosts. The numbers of moth wings on the floor of roosts were counted to assess rates of predation. Bats consumed 209 moths at the six roosts over a 12-month period, representing 19% of the moth population at the start of the study. The study establishes that moth–bat cohabitation of roosts is relatively common in eastern Australia and that bats do capture moths in these sites. Bat predation seems to be a significant source of mortality of moths that occupy subterranean roosts.

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