BatChat

Bat flies with Dr Erica McAlister

December 21, 2022 Season 4 Episode 38
BatChat
Bat flies with Dr Erica McAlister
Show Notes Transcript

S4E38 We return to London's Natural History Museum. This time however, we're in the bowels of the Diptera collection with flygirl herself, Dr Erica McAlister. If you think you recognise that name it's because Erica has graced the airwaves several times before including BBC Radio 4's The Infinite Monkey Cage and The Life Scientific. As you'll hear in this episode, Erica needs help from those of us who regularly handle bats. If you're a bat carer or a bat worker who undertakes bat box checks or trapping surveys, please start collecting all bat ectoparasites from bats and place them into vials of 100% ethanol. Make detailed notes about the species of bat they came from, the sex of the bat, located of ectoparasite & what the bat was doing at the time. A location & the habitat is also a must. As much info as possible! You can then post your specimens to:
Dr Erica McAlister,
Senior Curator; Diptera,
Life Sciences (Insects Division),
The Natural History Museum,
Cromwell Road,
London SW7 5BD.

Your specimens will be added to the collection and your name will eventually appear in the digital collections.

Bat and bird fly recording scheme website
See Piotr Naskrecki's bat fly image here
A short video of Erica talking about bat flies along with more photos here
Ethanol can be purchased here
Sample tubes can b

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Steve Roe:

This is BatChat from the Bat Conservation Trust the podcast for anyone who loves bats. We're bringing you the stories from the world of bat conservation, from the people on the ground, doing work that furthers our understanding of these magical creatures. There's a lot of information experience and stories out there. And we're bringing it right to you. I'm Steve Roe. I'm an ecologist as well as a trustee of the Bat Conservation Trust. You can join the conversation online using the hashtag BatChat that's all one word. This week we're back at London's Natural History Museum delving into the collections. The 56th Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards featured an image of a Mozambican long fingered bat with what appeared to be a spider attached to his face. Yes, this week rather than going through drawers of bats were in the diptera collection with fly girl herself, the senior curator of flies and fleas Dr. Erica McAlister. In this episode, we're discovering the lives of wingless critters that live on bats, bat flies, it's hard not to be taken in by Erica's enthusiasm in this episode. And she has an important task for those of us who handle bats on a regular basis. So I'm sat in a glass sided room in somewhere in the back of the Natural History Museum with Dr. Erica McAlister, who is the Senior Curator of flies and fleas here at the Natural History Museum. And I probably need to start this podcast with an apology because when Professor Kate Jones finds out that fly girl has been on the podcast before she has I'm in big trouble. I take it off air you are both very good Friends.

Dr Erica McAlister:

Yeah no Kate's wonderful, but obviously we can't tell the world that can we!

Steve Roe:

So everyone knows you as fly girl, but you actually hand reared a Jamaican fruitbat called Suzie out in the Caribbean. Can you tell us more about that? And then we'll get onto the flies?

Dr Erica McAlister:

Well, well, I It wasn't just me there was. I've spent a lot of time going back and forth from Dominica. It's very good. And I work with an organisation called Operation Wallacea. And we have lots of students that come from all over the world. And they come and help us scientists do various different projects, minds, obviously looking at the best creatures, the insects, specifically the flies, but I was working alongside the bat folks. And one of them Melissa. She is a Canadian, and she is a very good as well as doing all the bat surveys and try and do bat research in Canada. She's one of the bat rehabilitators so she will look after injured bats. We have a great fun. Once a week we go canyoning. So we go charging up and down canyons and on one of these trips, she found this Jamaican fruit bat at an immature one at the base of the canyon. So she's umming and ahing, umming and ahing, and what to do with it, and she was like, Do you know what I will hand rear it. She had five weeks that she was going to be on this trip before it ended. And it was going to be like, let's go for it. And we're all living in a communal area together so she just turned up one day look got a bat and we were like, okay, and Suzie, as she became known, took an absolute liking to her and me, which was really cute, because I'll be sitting there and as his bat, like, sitting on me in my air. And I have to say, I know, I know I shouldn't do this. But when the bat was purring, you know, when you come home from a hard day in the field, and then the bat suddenly launches itself at you. And in the early days, it would just kind of like start all over the place and whatever you pick it up, and then when it starts to fly, you come home and it gets into your chest and start purring. I was like a tiny little, like, fur flying cat. You know, it was like, but slightly, obviously better than a cat. So yeah, so it was quite amazing. And we were lucky to get work with the Forestry Commission out there. And Melissa was able to release it back to an area of a known colony and they were able to carry on monitoring so fingers crossed. Susie has gone on with a little memory of two lovely people helped her Yeah, bless oh my gosh, when she used to eat mangoes though bats are messy! All over the place. And she was like she was drunk. We had to be careful about what mangoes we gave up because, well first definitely times your like Suzi behave. But yes, it was quite an experience. 2015 Gosh, not long ago, but it was quite amazing.

Steve Roe:

So I'll be honest, I know nothing about bat flies at all spent last night researching there's absolutely nothing. I've seen them in real life when we've handled bats and you see them they look a bit like fleas crawling around.

Dr Erica McAlister:

I think they drunk spiders. Yeah. Yeah. So when you go to grab them with the little forceps. They just did did it and they go each and every way. You know, they're like the queen on the chessboard and go absolutely anywhere. And they are that just like tiny crabs. You know, they've got that scuttle like move meant, so I just think they're quite fun. Obviously bats hate it. Because when you're trying to pick off these bat flies, bats get really moody really quickly. And yeah, so it has caused a lot of, you know, bats swearing when I tried to remove them.

Steve Roe:

Yeah, I mean, the ones I've seen look like crabs. So for for listeners who haven't seen them or aren't sure, can you just describe them other than they look a bit like a crab.

Dr Erica McAlister:

So first off, there's two families about flies, there's Nycteribiidae, and there's Streblidae. And we won't get the Streblidae over here. They are generally found in the more western world, the tropics or subtropics, but we definitely get the Nycteribiidae here. Now there are only three species in the UK. Okay. Yeah, so there's not many of them, I think it's 17 across Europe. And they are, imagine a fly and then destroy every image you have of what you think fly looks like because they have most of them well Nycteribiidae are wingless. And if they have eyes, they're very small, very reduced. They have some of them have extraordinary long legs, spindly legs, and then most fantastic claws at the end of them, because they're supremely adapted to living on their hosts, the bats.

Steve Roe:

The one image of bat flies that seems to become quite famous Piotr Naskrecki was in downstairs in the in the wildlife photographer of the year it's just sat on the face of a Mozambique

Dr Erica McAlister:

I interviewed him. We had a lovely chat about it. And we just went off completely on them. I mean, what an amazing experience. And he has a great job of going out there and looking at them. And being a photographer who's spent a lot of time he's able to give us so much observatory data, which is great when you know we're getting lots of new stuff. And it is it's a bit it's a bit of a weird image because it makes the bat fly look enormous. And then not really you know, don't imagine a greater paper straw with a thing that big on its head. So it's a small bag. It's a weird image, but it is quite stunning visualisation? Yes, it's

Steve Roe:

great. And really hairy as well, aren't they

Dr Erica McAlister:

Hirsute young man hirsute! Yes. And they're meant to be hairy. I mean, you know, some of them are hairy. Actually, some of them are quite bald. It really does depend on the species. But it doesn't, you know, that enable the hairs are sensory organs. And it also enables them to, you know, snuggle in in their hairy hosts.

Steve Roe:

So what purpose do they serve in ecology? You know, what they're feeding on? And what's the lifecycle? So we know of,

Dr Erica McAlister:

okay, I just rolled my eyes, for the listeners, because what purpose question is one that I would just slam at the ballpark straightaway mate. What's the purpose of humans? Right. So are you asked me what their ecological roles are? Okay, that's a different story. And will they are basically Ectoparasites. So this is their role. And they do it very well. They have co evolved, presumably, after the expansion of the mammalian radiation bat flies are in the Cyclopodia, which are some of the more recently evolved species of flies, so it does kind of coincide. The superfamily their from the Hippoboscid, also include the Tsete, and the Hippoboscoidea, which are the bird flies, but we presume they weren't from bats to birds that way around in evolution. So as to their roles, that they're not pollinators. They're not doing anything. They're just doing exactly what they want to do. They are feeding on their house, and providing a supreme habitat for the next generation.

Steve Roe:

And you mentioned Tsetse. And I was quite surprised when I was researching to find the bat flies give birth to live young and then realised they were in the same family as Tsetse, and then it all sort of clicked and made sense.

Dr Erica McAlister:

I don't think people quite understand how amazing that is. Genuinely stop and think about it. These flies, all of the Hippoboscoidea give birth live now it's called Adenotrophic viviparity. So they produce an egg, which hatches and then they internally rear a larvae. So she's got lactating glands on the inside. Now, that is, there's nothing else that does that. There are a few examples in the California the the blue bottles, blue flies where they do that, but that is it across the whole of the animal kingdom. How, how weird is that, given

Steve Roe:

that they've evolved alongside bats or since bats and also, you know, found out when listening to the the infinite monkey cage when you had a conversation with Kate said that those live younger those flies are about 40% of the weight of the adults which is the same as bats is it just a coincidence or is there a Is there something more integral between the relationship between bats and flies there?

Dr Erica McAlister:

I had no idea about the bats. Now that I doubt it, I think there's, unless there's no I wouldn't know.

Steve Roe:

So you mentioned that some are wingless, and some retain their wings until they can find a host. For the wingless ones, you know how they move in between these different bat colonies and repopulate in new areas.

Dr Erica McAlister:

So they were generally stay to one host for their entire life. Okay, they don't, they don't move around. It's not like they fall off, if they fall off, that's a problem. So and that's probably why they're quite rare. And probably why there's quite a few problems when it comes to bats moving around roosts, and things like that. I mean, that's one way they can move around if bats move around, but if they kind of get separated and lost, it's pros and cons, isn't it. So the female, the males and females will stay on the host or their life, and they will only the female only come off when she's about to give birth. And at that point, she goes to whatever the substrate the bats are on be in a tree or a cave. And at that point, and the larvae will then have to find a new host. And that's how it works.

Steve Roe:

I see. So it's there's a, I mean, do we know how long that takes? And is there a risk, then obviously, if they leave the host and at bats move on? For whatever

Dr Erica McAlister:

reason? Exactly. So even they can survive a little bit without feeding. But they do need to obviously get a host. Yeah,

Steve Roe:

It's very interesting. We'll talk more about the number of specimens you've got here at the history museum and a bit when we go look at the collection. You're undertaking some research into bat flies. And that's where this podcast came about. You've got to you've got a random jar things here in front of us, you know, what is that research? And how can we expect ecologists help you?

Dr Erica McAlister:

Okay, well, there's two things. So there's a little bit of fun stuff from Dominica, which are these jars of flies here. So again, back to the colleagues, I've been working over the Caribbean, we've been picking off these bat flies for the last six years, seven years worth of data. And we want to look at the host specifity. It's a terrible word to say that for me, and we want to live with as they're not generally thought to be very host specific. So but we would like to look in it. And it will be interesting, because in terms of disease transmission, and things like that, it'd be very good to understand what's going on. So that's just me playing around with those, we may have some new species in there as well, who knows. But in the UK, I am alongside a lovely lady called Denise Wawman, we back in 2020, launch the bat and bird fly recording scheme. Now she has the greater part of this, because I have a whopping three species of which I need to be start recording. However, those three species are very difficult to record, because obviously they're on bats. And as you know, unless you have a bat handling licence, it's very difficult. Now, you know, I've come across bats in many situation and and we all go out with our little bat monitors. And that's great. But it doesn't tell me it's not we haven't got a little bat, you know, bat fly monitor. That'd be amazing, wouldn't it? If I could just go Beep Beep Beep like that. So what I'm asking is for all people, a bat rehabilitators. Anyone who does bat surveys, whatever, if you do come across any of the ectoparasites, I would very much like them. And that's any ectoparasites. You know what, yes, because I'm also involved with the fleas. There's also bat bugs, that's bat lice. There's all sorts of things like this, and actually doing a comprehensive survey of actually what's out there, I think would be very useful.

Steve Roe:

I mean, I've literally just finished this autumn doing autumn swarming survey, seen handle lots of bats, and almost all of those bats have got some sort of ectoparasites on it. Imagine I would imagine this time next year, you'll be inundated.

Dr Erica McAlister:

And that's fine. That's fine. No is good. I love an echo parasite. So that's very good. And we are doing part of the Darwin Tree of Life at the Museum, we're very heavily involved. So it'd be really good to actually get some of these fresh ethanols so we can sequence them and find out what's going on.

Steve Roe:

So when people take these X parasites off, do you want them to record whereabouts on the bat their found, whether it's on the main body or on the wing? And then what's the best way to get the sample to you and how,

Dr Erica McAlister:

okay, so, first of all, in the strongest solution of ethanol, 100% is the best in vials, and you can pop them into the post that's no problem. You will be surprised at how many flies are winging their way around the post in the world is quite amusing. And after data, so yes, I would like species sex location age. We're taking things like lactating non-lactating if you if obvious things like that position on the bat will be Cool. And roost. Yep. So I guess what you'll be taking all the data you'll be taking in your surveys. I would just like to crib that please.

Steve Roe:

Nice. So then you're all better workers get get a get your flies into Erica next year, this jar you've got in front, there's viles the whole jar is in solution. But then there's jars inside with also solution, why the two into lots of solution

Dr Erica McAlister:

to make sure that when the ethanol does not dissolve, because we have to be so see, do you see that code? Yeah. Do you know what species that is? So they are, that's the Jamaican fruit bat. So this little bat on the 12th of July 2019. gave me that little bat fly.

Steve Roe:

And it really is teeny tiny. I miss all his perspective, because I haven't got to burn my hand. But actually, if I had a Batman that is quite large, isn't it? Yeah.

Dr Erica McAlister:

I mean, that's kind of like a kiwi walking around your body. Imagine a kiwi with long legs just walking around your body. That's the sort of size of thing going on. So yeah, so I need to go through these. I would do some side mounts of them. I do images, they have to have the proper labels. And then they go into the collection. Talking of which do you want to come? Yeah!

Steve Roe:

I've seen the outside of the egg?

Dr Erica McAlister:

Right, so we are in the collection.

Steve Roe:

So we've just walked through endless corridors, and I've seen that little snapshots of know where we are like the outside of the darwin egg, roughly. Where are

Dr Erica McAlister:

we? Okay, so we're in the cocoon now. Now, I know obviously, this is a podcast. But what you can see or imagine, okay, is you've got one floor, and there's 123456 rows. And each row contains four aisles of double sided cabinets. Of which says, there's 28 per aisle of these cabinets. Okay, now there's five floors of entomology. And there's another building, and then there's the pickles. So basically, what you're basically looking at now is 34 million insects. We can't visualise that. And I can't. I mean, the Diptera collection, we've only got between two and 4 million. It's a bit of a guess. And you'll understand why when you see some. But as long as the pin specimens, these are the slide collection. This is the beautiful Rothschild flea collection. And we move on to us with what was called prepare it. And that's what the old Hippoboscidae used to be. I love these askers predictions. These are the really ones these are the mad crazy bat flies. Have you read about these? These are the ones the females. There's one feature of the females when she gets pregnant. She rips her legs off. So no wings off. Yeah, go on about this one. Because it's like really, it is the best example of bonkers in any animal is a come on cover what female does that? So yes, these tiny, I mean, they are blobs on slides. But we're trying to as I said we're trying to digitise the collection. So we're going through, and we're taking out all of these collections. And we are taking them to be imaged database. And,

Steve Roe:

and when you say image, that's the it's the stack image and so you get a nice 3d image

Dr Erica McAlister:

lately. So yeah, they've been imaged at the moment. So this is what's going on. They will offer imaging and then these lot will get imaged. So we have a little job to go yet. But as you can see most of the collection and this is foreign, look at the little ones on the amazing. The people that this is reflected in 1952 I love it is by Jobling I love the fact that it says Jobling, Jobling Jobling. And Theodore was a very famous collection collector as well. But it's about time we added to these collections.

Steve Roe:

So Eric was looking at so we're stood outside a very nice polished wooden case and that each tray is probably a centimetre thick. And then within each of those was several dozen slides with with samples in each of those. Yeah.

Dr Erica McAlister:

And then the pins, and this is the British collection. So we keep the British Collection desperately obviously because we have the most people coming from the British. How many families of bats? So, you know, there's more species of fly in the UK than there are mammals on the planet? Yes. Right. Well, Phoenix and streps

Steve Roe:

do you find during the really hot summer days that these rooms are much more busy because they're temperature controlled?

Dr Erica McAlister:

So it's interesting because they are temperature controlled. So, humidity and temperature is whatever. Now our Brazilian visitors are freezing. But are Russian visitors? Are like Yes, we had a lovely Russian lady a couple of years back. And she was 70 plus, it was best not to ask. And she was going up and down the ladders. And my colleague it who was her host was really worried. And she's like, Russian. I have survived Siberian winters. This has nothing to do you know what? She's probably much better than we are so Absolutely. Right. You ready for this? Enormous? Isn't the British collection? Nycteribidae on pins.

Steve Roe:

I was gonna say one tray, not even one tray.

Dr Erica McAlister:

Kind of see? Yes. So that hippoboscidae so they don't even count. So that is that is the pin collection.

Steve Roe:

How many of them 14 ish?

Dr Erica McAlister:

14 ish, yes. Now obviously, most of the time now we don't keep them in pin collections. They are in pickles. Because it's a much better way of storing them. But these are now all been databased. They've all gone online. And they were added to the schemes and then added to the atlas of UK observations. And what we have though, is we have some of the pupil cases. So this is one of the species and this is the colour of it. And these are the ones associated with tree hosts. So Myotis daubentonii and those species, so we get them there, whereas the by articulator This is the one associated with cave bats, the lesser and greater horseshoe, so I need people to hang around in different environments to get these different ones. Yeah, and then they're obviously Brasilia Nana, is the one on the Bechstein's bat how rare is the Bechstein's bat pretty, pretty rare? And that's the problem.

Steve Roe:

And we think and we and we don't know whether that's host specific or we're do?

Dr Erica McAlister:

well, we don't think it is we don't think Crazy. Have to say that I do love them because they are just any of us are truly host spacific but again. Let's get some data. Yeah. So there's a lot of recent studies coming out of Europe. It's been good ones and Slovenia, Crimea, all around there. And that's really good. But we could deal with some information here. So that'd be great. To have a look at some under a microscope. Yes. weird. Right. This is a microscope for somebody who doesn't work, with proper organisms this is why Kate always has a go at me. Stop doing that Erica! Can't help it. Now, what's amazing about these is also their head. Okay, so if you have a look down the microscope, you want me to hold that? When you look down the microscope, so you'll see it's quite a weird looking creature at the best of times. And this one's slightly dishevelled, because time has been not gentle to it, bless it. But so you've got a very long legs, and you can see really obvious claws, it's completely adapted to living on fur. And these claws are absolutely fantastic. And enabling it to hold on. And it has to absolutely because we talked about earlier. But what you see it's got no wings, and therefore it's got a very small thoracic segment. And this is because the, you know, the big flight muscles are not necessary. So it's much more reduced in other flies, other insects etc. And the head therefore when it's not feeding at rest, kind of knots back into the back. So as you see it upwards, rather than forwards as traditional with all the other flies. So it keeps its head out the way the arrangement of their bristles, their hairs, they have all sorts of things, these all diagnostic features to help us. So I mean this one because if pinned, it's going to be more difficult to identify. Yeah, so this is why we prefer them in fNo. Nowadays, yeah. But tiny little eyes. I mean, they don't really need eyes. not hairy, what was the phrase you used? Hirsute young man. I love it. Yeah. Bless him. And she will, obviously because it's quite a quite a process for her to get pregnant. They can copulate for 24 hours. Nice. Yeah, exactly. Come back as one of those. And what she will only give birth about four or five times.

Steve Roe:

Okay. She's, I mean, you would, wouldn't you? So do we know what the lifespan is?

Dr Erica McAlister:

Not really sure of all species that some of them have been recorded for about eight months, nine months? It depends. If the adults get separated from their hosts, some will die within several days. So it can be quite short.

Steve Roe:

So in terms of copulation, and a male's much more roaming around back colonies, how do they come across one another?

Dr Erica McAlister:

No, they'll be on the same bat I think? Yes. So seems a bit a bit. I know. But bless him, he will be doing that. And they both the males and the females blood feed, which is unusual with blood feeding insects. Usually, it's just a female who's doing it. So we think about mosquitoes and other species like that. But this is the both. And we think it's because he's got very nutrient rich sperm. So it's another energy source of her hence why she has such amazing offspring 40% of your body weight. It's just obscene, it's just like, you know, there's pros and cons of these amazing creatures. And that is definitely a con for Oh, but she's been she doesn't love it. She's described as when she comes off the bat, she will reverse on to whatever the substrate is. And then the larvae basically, it's in a pre pre painted stage immediately emerges. And then it pupates there and then she just shoves it, she squashes it against the wall, which slept. What a hother hey, it's just wonderful. And then quickly leaves it. I just think I really do think we need to tell our human kids, they have it very easy. They have no idea how bad life could be. You imagine your mother's squashed to the fridge and go in here you go go on with it. See, interestingly, this one has got one the larvae beside it. So this is the pupil case and they've obviously dissected out the larvae. You see, it looks really lifelike like that, because it's so constricted together.

Steve Roe:

After looking at the sample that's at the bottom the microscope just to get a sense of how small it is, is really cool.

Dr Erica McAlister:

You know, I mean, this is it. It's wonderful, isn't it? To see them. I do love this species. And then here's another piece of wood next to it. And you can see 1234560 Wow, a tiny little nursery, sort of that little nursery as well as the bat.

Steve Roe:

So that piece of wood is probably two three centimetres long. Yeah. And it's quite a gnarly piece of

Dr Erica McAlister:

bat fly's quite gnarly. Yeah, yeah.

Steve Roe:

And then there's tiny little going to hate this phrase this tiny look like miniature acorns just sort of like stuck into the wood.

Dr Erica McAlister:

I could go with that very mature, acorn, very dark brown. And this was collected in 1934. Exactly. So that's what I'm saying from High Wycombe. So we do need to kind of go out there and start collecting and we

Steve Roe:

think and will that have been from inside of that kind of liking? Because obviously that's roosting inside the tree like a will pick up something will have been from inside the restaurant than Yeah, so

Dr Erica McAlister:

I presume it's gonna be on the inside. Yeah, I mean, they're not they're not daft. They're going to be protected them. So yeah, so what, what people can do is they can go online, because I've now added all of these, hopefully to our database. So they can go to the NHM portal, and they can see our original records. Although there's so few of them, it really doesn't matter. So they anything if they can either go to our record records there, but preferably specimens to me, because then I can verify them. And that'd be really, really handy. And maybe we could do some DNA from them. It'd be great.

Steve Roe:

That's great. I had not idea there was anything like that in bat roosts.

Dr Erica McAlister:

See this is the problem with you mammal people. You just like get stuck. And it's like no, wait, keep looking. Keep looking. So you got to see what the fleas it like. And then you've got the lice. And then you've got the bugs. You've got all of these. We got sensor bugs recently back bugs, which is great because we've sequenced them. Yeah, which is amazing. And they just look like it's like nature kind of squashes things a lot. So like you know, fleas are squashed one way the bugs have been squashed in alleyway. These have been squashed a different way. It's just Fine, there's a lot of squashing going on. It's quite

Steve Roe:

great. So you do a really good job of getting people enthused about flies, which is, which is not, you know, because they're amazing. What tips would you give those bad workers to get people the public enthused about screeners which are not necessarily loved by all?

Dr Erica McAlister:

So basically, just talk with the heart, I got reminded this recently, actually, like, you are you asked me straightaway, what's the ecological point of something. And we do this as scientists, we spend so much time we've got so involved with our subjects that we, we talk about them as a secondary objects in many ways. And, you know, we say, Oh, this speech has been recorded here in here. Now, what we need to do, and I think actually, what social media has done as well, is to highlight we really do love these creatures. They're wonderful. They're beautiful. They're amazing. They're weird. They're crazy. And you see people who suddenly go put a picture on and go, Okay, what what, what is this? And you're like, Haha, I know is weird, isn't it? And then you'll get remember that, you know, you'll have a smile when you talk about these creatures. And you're like, you know what, we need to remember that it's not childish to talk about our passion. And that's what I think we we as adults, we forget, you know, inside me, the four year old never got any bigger, genuinely well, it grew in physical shape, definitely. But you know, in mental shape. I'm still an immature who giggles at things all the time. So that is my advice.

Steve Roe:

Dr. Erica McAlister has been brilliant having you on Thank you very much.

Dr Erica McAlister:

Thank you very much go out and collect everyone.

Steve Roe:

A huge thanks to Erica for spending her morning with me. As you heard there, the number of bat flies from the UK in the collection is really rather small. So it would be great if we could send an Ectoparasite specimens from as many species of bat as possible from as many habitats and roosts as possible. All the info you need about submitting specimens to Erica is in the show notes, along with links to pictures of bat flies. And of course, that now famous image by Piotr Nasreki. Just before we go back chat listener Beverly has got in touch with the show, using the voicemail link that's in the show notes.

Beverley:

Hi, my name is Beverley, volunteer with Loch Lomond bat group up in Scotland. My role as Education and Outreach Officer has involved me doing quite a few talks and walks this year for local groups. I think my favourite experience was at the end of about walk that I had been doing with the Loch Lomond scouts. And along the side of the river leaving which flows out of Loch Lomond. We got back to the car park where the parents were picking them up. And there was a pair of bats just circling around and round the street lamp from where we started just sitting the detectors off like mad clicking and buzzing. And the kids could hear everything we were doing, as well as having the experience of seeing them flying round their heads. And they were thrilled want to take them home. And I just love bats because they always put on a great show and they're amazing. Thank you.

Steve Roe:

Thanks for that message. Beverley. I bet Loch Lomond is a fantastic place to watch bats. Now. If you find yourself wondering what to do in between Christmas and the New Year, please do get in touch with the show to tell us about a special bat sighting you had this year or a site you think everyone should go and visit to watch bats. Whatever your story we really want to hear from you. So do get in touch. The voicemail link is in the show notes. And don't worry, you can hear your message back and rerecord it. If you don't like it before sending it to us. We can't wait to hear from you. Next time we have a really special interview for you from the Batman of Mexico, Dr. Rodrigo Medellin, I hope you all have a lovely festive break and in the meantime, I'll leave you with a teaser from that next episode with Rodrigo

Rodrigo Medellin:

Of course I went oh my god, what is this? The big years the nose leave the wings. Everything was just blowing my mind away. So I started describing I said well I don't know I think it may be listening for insects. So he takes that out and he puts another one and what does he do and so on and so forth. So in that one cave, I got to know the vampire bats, a couple of insectivorous bats and the lesser long-nosed bat as well.