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Nutrition in Bats

By Joeke Nijboer, PhD, Nutritionist, Rotterdam Zoo

Captive insectivorous bats frequently are fed diets consisting primarily of mealworms. Crickets, fruit flies, blowfly larvae, and other insects also are commonly offered. Because insects typically are low in calcium, they should be maintained on a calcium-enriched diet so that the bat will consume the insect’s high-calcium gut contents. A suitable mealworm diet can be formulated using 35% wheat middlings, 35% ground dry dog or cat food, and 30% ground calcium carbonate, which should be fed at least 3 days. Gels containing water and a calcium solution can also be fed. Frugivorous bats should be fed a diet that contains a low amount of iron to prevent iron storage disease. The diet could contain a low-iron pellet for birds mixed with apples, bananas, and oranges.

Often, captive insectivorous bats must be fed by hand when flying insects are not available. Some bats can be trained to accept insects from a food dish by being placed directly on the live food.

Many insectivorous bats can be maintained successfully in captivity using artificial liquid or solid diets (see Table: Diets of Selected Mammals). Liquid diet can be placed in shallow plastic trays positioned near wire or branches for the bats to land on and hang from while feeding. Leftover liquid diet should be replaced daily. Solid diets usually include bananas as the major ingredient. Additional ingredients frequently offered include papaya, apple, pear, melon, grape, and cooked carrot and sweet potato. Canned cat or dog food, chopped eggs, and mealworms also have been fed with the fruit.

Diets of Selected Mammals

Freshwater Otter Diet

Percent (%)

Ground horse or cow meat

38

Ground beef heart

20

Ground dry cat food

13

Beet pulp

2.9

Mirra-Coat®

1.9

Calcium carbonate

0.8

Poultry fat

4.9

Water

16.9

Lactose

0.04

Yogurt

0.72

Mineral-vitamin mix

0.84

All ingredients should be combined in a large mixer, divided into daily portions, and frozen. Lactose for lactobacilli can be added in yogurt to help maintain freshness. Lactose and yogurt are optional.

Liquid Diet for Bats

Percent (%)

Dry mix:

Mixed baby cereal

20.7

Wheat germ

4

Nonfat dried milk powder

9

Calcium caseinate

15.8

Sugar

45.5

Protein supplement (casein-based)

3

Mineral-vitamin mix

2

The dry mix (100 g) should be mixed with canned peach nectar (540 mL), water (260 mL), and corn oil (6 mL), and fed with peeled bananas.

Large Herbivore Pellet for Grazers

Percent (%)

Wheat middlings

30

Alfalfa hay, sun-cured, ground (16% crude protein)

22

Corn grain, ground

19.1

Soybean meal without hulls (48% crude protein)

11.4

Alfalfa meal, dehydrated (17% crude protein)

10

Sugarcane molasses

5

Soybean oil

1

Phosphorus supplement

0.8

Sodium chloride

0.5

Mineral premixa

0.1

Vitamin premixb

0.1

Calculated composition (dry-matter basis): 89% dry matter, 19% crude protein, 4.3% fat, 16% acid detergent fiber, 12% crude fiber, 0.75% calcium, 0.7% phosphorus

a Mineral premix (mg/kg of premix): 75,000 Zn, 50,000 Fe, 30,000 Mn, 10,000 Cu, 800 I, 200 Se, and 100 Co

b Vitamin premix (per kg of premix): 5,000,000 IU vitamin A, 400,000 IU vitamin D3, 200,000 mg vitamin E, 500,000 mg choline, 40,000 mg niacin, 20,000 mg pantothenic acid, 4,000 mg riboflavin, 20 mg vitamin B12

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