High-flying insectivorous bats, as wide-ranging generalist insectivores, are valuable consumers of high-altitude migrating pests of rice in Southeast Asia. Here, we documented the behavior of relatively low-flying bats over irrigated rice to elucidate their potential role as predators of rice-associated pest insects in the Philippines. Specifically, we tested the local-scale effects of rice stage, particularly seedling and late vegetative stages, and time of night on acoustic activity of bats foraging near ground level within three functional guilds (based on foraging distance from background clutter). We also monitored bat activity from two 50 m-high towers to assess the vertical extent of relatively low-flying guilds, as well as document high-flying bat guild presence and temporal behavior. At ground level, the most active guild biased their activity and feeding over early growth stage fields, but also foraged at tower level. Activity of the bat guild adept at foraging closest to vegetation did not vary with time of night or rice stage and was absent from tower recordings. High-flying bats were predictably rare at rice level, but exhibited high foraging intensity at 50 m. Given the well-documented, sequential arrival of insect guilds with growth stage, these data suggest that at ground level edge-space bats may be important consumers of detritivores (e.g., mosquitoes). Moreover, our data suggest that just as habitat heterogeneity enhances the services of arthropod predators, these management practices also enhance bat activity and, presumably, their contribution to pest suppression.
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