As a K-strategist and comparatively sedentary species, the lesser horseshoe bat Rhinolophus hipposideros is considered sensitive to changes in habitat quality. Knowledge of the species' dietary requirements and use of foraging habitats is thus considered an essential prerequisite to manage its habitats adequately. Based on four large annual samples of faecal pellets from three different nursery colonies, including two consecutive years of sampling from one colony, we studied the diet of Central German populations of R. hipposideros. Consistent with findings of similar studies carried out in other parts of the distribution range of R. hipposideros, in our study, Diptera, Lepidoptera, and Neuroptera represented the most important groups of prey for the studied colonies. However, Hemiptera made a comparatively larger contribution in our study than in others, and so did Hymenoptera in one of the colonies. We found seasonal compositional variation in all four annual samples, as well as compositional variation between samples from different colonies, but not between the two annual samples obtained in consecutive years from the same colony. Differences between colonies appeared at least to some extent to reflect differences in availability of foraging habitats. Our results are thus in agreement with the assumption of R. hipposideros being a largely opportunistic, generalist forager. Our findings are also consistent with a known preference by R. hipposideros of woodland as main foraging habitat, as previously established by other studies carried out in the northern part of the distribution range. However, the relative importance of Hemiptera, and in particular of Psyllidae, at certain times during the foraging season, suggests that the Central German colonies of R. hipposideros might have utilized commercial orchards and private fruit gardens for foraging during seasonal peaks in abundance of pest species of fruit trees. The implied ability of R. hipposideros to respond to seasonal abundance peaks of particular groups of prey in a range of habitats suggests that structural diversity might be key in maintaining viable populations of this species. The potential importance of orchards and fruit gardens in regions where such habitats are prevalent is likely to have relevant management implications.
Vol. 17 • No. 2
Vol. 17 • No. 2