An Introduction to Bats

What do YOU know about bats????
T CREEPY, BLIND, BLOODSUCKING RODENTS OF THE NIGHTu ‡ Bats are flying rats ‡ Bats will attack you for no reason ‡ Bats will fly into your hair ‡ Bats are blind

‡Those are all just BAT MYTHS ‡Bats won¶t fly into your hair or attack you ‡They aren¶t blind at all ‡And they aren¶t even rodents««

Nobody likes me«.

So, What are bats?
‡ Kingdom: Animalia Phylum: Chordata Class: Mammalia Infraclass: Eutheria Superorder:Laurasiatheria Order: Chiroptera
Suborder Megachiroptera- flying foxes ‡ 1 Family, ~166 species Suborder Microchiroptera- micro bats ‡ 16 Families, ~759 species Of 4200 mammal species, ~1000 are bats!

Bats are the only mammals capable of TRUE powered flight. Bats actually fly with their hands, not their arms!

Illustration from BCI Educator¶s Activity Book

Bat Facts
‡ Long lived (some up to 30 years)
‡ Possibly due to reduced metabolic activity during torpor (40% of the year in some species).

‡ Low fecundity
‡ Temperate zone bats are monestrous and usually have 1 young/yr ‡ Exceptions are the red bat (twins and triplets are common) and the southeastern myotis (twins are common)

‡ Long period of infant dependency
‡ 2 month gestation and 1 month of infant dependency

‡ High survivorship
‡ 50-80% chance of surviving each year once adulthood is reached (Findley 1993). ‡ Common predators of bats are owls, snakes, hawks and feral cats

What do Bats Eat?
‡ FRUIT- ³frugivory´ ‡ FLOWERS- nectar or pollen ‡ CARNIVORES- birds, reptiles, amphibians ‡ FISH- highly specialized carnivores ‡ BLOOD- ³sangrivory´ ‡ INSECTS- aerial or foliage gleaners

Why Are Bats Important?
‡ Bats are important pollinators of many plant species including the agave plant (ie. Tequila), the saguaro cactus and many rainforest plant species; ‡ Bats are vital for the control of insect populations;

‡ Although some bats in the tropics feed on fish, fruit, nectar, or even blood, bats of Canada feed on insects, usually caught in flight. ‡ Bats eat a variety of insects, including moths, beetles, mayflies, caddis flies, midges, black flies and mosquitoes. ‡ Insectivorous, or insect-eating, species of bats typically consume 50 to over 100 percent of their body weight in insects each night in summer. ‡ This is the same as a 60-kg person eating 30 to 60 kg of food in one day.

Bat Food Web
‡ Plants are producers because they get their energy from the sun; ‡ A primary consumer eats producers; ‡ Bats are considered secondary consumers because they eat insects that eat plants; ‡ They could also be considered tertiary consumers because they eat the bugs that eat the bugs that eat the plants.


What is Echo-location?
‡ Bats use ECHOLOCATION for navigation and prey capture:

Animation from

More About Echo-location
‡ 1700¶s: Lazarro Spallanzani first proposed bats could ³see´ with their ears ‡ 1930¶s: Donald R. Griffin of Harvard coined term ³echo-location´ ‡ Not all bats echolocate- just Microbats ‡ Most echolocation calls are between 9 to 200+ kHz ‡ Humans can only hear up to 20 kHz ‡ Bat detectors allow us to hear bat calls and identify them.

Ok, Bats are beneficial, but what about RABIES???
‡ Bats ARE carriers of rabies ‡ Rabies caused by a bullet-shaped virus of the genus Lyssavirus. It causes a very serious viral infection of the Central Nervous System ‡ Rabies can only be transmitted through saliva or spinal fluid, not blood or urine ‡ If you are exposed, you will need post-exposure vaccinations ASAP (series of 5 itty-bitty shots in the arm) ‡ FYI- Raccoons pose the most serious risk of rabies. Surprisingly, otters are also a risk

Rabies Prevention
‡ DON¶T HANDLE WILD MAMMALS, including bats!!!!!! ‡ Keep your pets vaccinated ‡ If you think you have been exposed, seek medical attention promptly

‡ It is a respiratory disease that is most often associated with bird droppings, but bat and rodent droppings also pose a risk - especially in hot, humid climates; ‡ Histoplasmosis is caused by a ground fungus Histoplasma capsulatum; ‡ It causes flu-like symptoms which, in rare cases, can be quite serious; ‡ Severity of disease is related to dosage of exposure (number of spores inhaled); ‡ Keep your home and outbuildings free of fecal material.

Where are the bats?

Big Brown Bat Eptesicus fuscus
‡ One of the most common bats in urban areas and bat houses ‡ Often roost in buildings- prefers snags in natural habitat ‡ Often return to maternity roost where they were born ‡ Forage in a variety of habitats

Photo From BCI:

Eastern Red Bat Lasiurus borealis
‡ Solitary, tree-roosting bat ‡ Hangs by one foot ‡ Will also hibernate in leaf litter on forest floor ‡ Used to form large daytime migratory flocks in 1800¶s ‡ 2-5 young (usually 3)
Photo From BCI:

Hoary Bat Lasiurus cinereus
‡ Solitary, roost among foliage on forest edges ‡ Can fly 24 miles in one night while foraging ‡ Territorial over foraging sites ‡ Often migrate with bird flocks ‡ One of the most widespread bats in N. America ‡ Hawaii¶s only native land mammal

Photo From BCI:

Eastern Pipistrelle Pipistrellus subflavus
‡ Common in forest edges and near agricultural areas ‡ One of first bats to emerge in evening ‡ Forage high in canopy ‡ Will hibernate in caves and in culverts
Photo From BCI:

Northen Yellow Bat Lasiurus intermedius
‡ Roosts year-round in Spanish moss and palm fronds ‡ Abundant on the coast ‡ Will forage over sand dunes and beaches ‡ Typically have 3 pups
Photo From BCI:

Hot Topics in Bat Research
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Phylogeny and evolution Functional morphology Echolocation Conservation Biology North American Bat Conservation Partnership (NABCP) Strategic Plan

Threats to Bat Populations
‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ ‡ Habitat destruction/fragmentation Loss of historical roost sites Disturbance of roost sites, esp. caves Disease Ignorance:
± General public: negative attitudes ± Scientific: Very little is known about the distribution, numbers and specific requirements of most bat species

General Practices that Benefit Bats
‡ Protection of known or potential roosts, including: snags, hollow trees, abandoned buildings, caves, bridges, etc. ‡ Creating artificial roosts ‡ Maintaining water quality ‡ Wise use of insecticides ‡ Keep cats indoors! ‡ Leave known bat populations undisturbed

Common Methods For Studying Bat Populations
‡ Population Surveys: Counts
± ± ± ± Direct Roost Counts Nightly Dispersal Counts Maternity Roost Counts Ultrasonic Bat Detectors

‡ Population Surveys: Captures
± Mist Nets ± Harp Traps ± Trip Lines (over water sources)

Basic Habitat Requirements for Bats
± Including maternity, bachelor and hibernation roosts ± Caves, hollow trees, stumps, live trees, abandoned buildings, bridges, culverts, etc.

± Waterways, roads, pipelines, forests, edges, clearings, beaches, etc.

± Lakes, rivers, streams, bays, stock tanks, swimming pools, etc.

Bat House Design
Bat houses should have the following specs:
± AT LEAST 2 ft. tall and 14 in. wide- bigger is better! ± Have a 3-6 inch landing strip covered with plastic hardware cloth below entrances ± Inner partitions (1-4+) should be ½ to 1 in. apart and covered with plastic hardware cloth or roughened manually ± Ventilation slot 6 in. from bottom of house
Photo From BCI:

Bat House Construction and Wood Treatment
‡ Use plywood, cedar or a combination ‡ Exterior of house: Apply 3 coats of dark or medium colored exterior grade, water-based paint or stain ‡ Interior of house: Apply two coats black, exterior grade, water-based stain ‡ Caulk all seams

Bat House Placement
‡ Full all day sun is best- minimum is 6 hours of sun exposure a day ‡ Place near water if possible ‡ Mount house on a pole 15-20 ft. high ‡ Make sure entrance is unobstructed
Photo From BCI: Photo From BCI:

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