The Insect You’ve Likely Never Heard Of

The curious creature clinging tightly to the bat’s face in the picture above may look like a spider, but if you count its legs, you’ll likely spot that it’s missing two. That’s because it’s not a spider, but a fly, and it’s unlike any you’ve come across before. Bat flies are external parasites that spend most of their lives feeding on the blood of bats. Bats are so incredibly dexterous that you might think they would choose to rid themselves of the hitchhiking flies, but they don’t. That’s because years of experience has taught them that they have no chance of removing them, so they have just learned to live with them. The flies move around on their host, but usually nestle into the fur on the lower back. This bat, however, didn’t seem particularly perturbed by the parasite’s decision to cling to its face instead. Since the bat’s main mode of gathering information about their surroundings is echolocation rather than vision, it’s not critical that the bat have its eyes unobscured. Bat flies have amazing claws that cling to the fur of the bats, which is a good thing, because they can’t survive long without access to blood. The only time a bat fly intentionally leaves its host is to give birth.