5.6.2 Ectoparasites Many arthropods live on bats for at least part of their lives. In Britain these include a variety of mites (Acari), species of flea (Siphonaptera), bat-flies (Diptera, Nycteribiidae) and bat-bugs (Hemiptera, Cimicidae). These parasites are in a very vulnerable position and so have become very specialised in their morphology, physiology, life cycle and ecology. For this reason they are of interest in themselves, although relatively little is known of the composition of the fauna occurring on British bats, or, for individual species, of their distribution, host-specificity, ecology and, in the case of mites, even their food. We also know little of the relationships between many of the parasites and their hosts and about any role they may play in the transmission of disease organisms. The study of these parasites can also provide additional information about the bats. Some mites are so small that a hand lens is required to see them on the host most are reasonably visible at least to the practised eye. Parasites can be found by inspecting the flight membrane, feet, ears and face and by blowing through the fur. They can be carefully removed with fine forceps or a fine paintbrush and are best stored in 70-80% alcohol. Some of the insects are very agile, but they can be immobilised with a dab of ethyl acetate. Some mites maybe very firmly attached and there is the possibility of leaving mouthparts embedded in the host. Not only does this create problems of identification of the parasite, but there is a risk of the embedded parts causing an infection. Specimens should be stored in small tubes of alcohol with full data of host, position on host, locality, date and collector. Some specimens will need to be CHAPTER 5 EXAMINING BATS 54 mounted on slides. Full details of preparation and storage are given in some of the identification guides, or the advice of an expert should be sought. A general guide to ectoparasites can be found in Hutson (1971). A detailed catalogue of the parasites recorded from bat species occurring in Italy (which includes all UK species) can be found in Lanza (1999).