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An Introduction to Bats BATS Creepy, blind, blood-sucking RODENTS of the night….right? What do YOU know about bats???? Bats are flying rats Bats will attack you for no reason Bats will fly into your hair Bats are blind Nobody likes me…. Actually….. Those are all just BAT MYTHS

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Creepy, blind, blood-sucking RODENTS of the night….right?

what do you know about bats
What do YOU know about bats????
  • Bats are flying rats
  • Bats will attack you for no reason
  • Bats will fly into your hair
  • Bats are blind

Nobody likes me….

  • Those are all just


  • Bats won’t fly into your hair or attack you
  • They aren’t blind at all
  • And they aren’t even rodents……
so what are bats
So, What ARE Bats???
  • Class Mammalia
  • Order Chiroptera (“hand-wing”)
    • Suborder Megachiroptera- flying foxes
      • 1 Family, ~166 species
    • Suborder Microchiroptera- micro bats
      • 16 Families, ~759 species
bat stats
Bat Stats
  • 4,200 species of mammals
  • ~1,000 species of bats
  • Of these, 88% are tropical
bats unique small mammals
Bats: Unique Small Mammals
  • 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
What do Bats Eat?
  • FRUIT- “frugivory”
  • FLOWERS- nectar or pollen
  • CARNIVORES- birds, reptiles, amphibians
  • FISH- highly specialized carnivores
  • BLOOD- “sangrivory”
  • INSECTS- aerial or foliage gleaners
how do bats fly
How do Bats Fly?
  • Bats are the only mammals capable of TRUE powered flight
bats actually fly with their hands not their arms
Bats Actually Fly With Their Hands, Not Their Arms!

Illustration from BCI Educator’s Activity Book

what is echolocation
What is Echolocation?
  • Microbats use ECHOLOCATION for navigation and prey capture:

Animation from

more about echolocation
More About Echolocation
  • 1700’s: Lazarro Spallanzani first proposed bats could “see” with their ears
  • 1930’s: Donald R. Griffin of Harvard coined term “echolocation”
  • Not all bats echolocate- just Microchioptera
  • 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
  • Can ID bat species by their echolocation calls
why are bats important
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
economic importance of bats in agriculture
Economic Importance of Bats in Agriculture
  • The story of Mexican free-tailed bats in Central Texas
    • Bracken Cave: ~20 million Mexican free-tailed bats (single largest aggregation of mammals in the world)
    • Central Texas caves, including Bracken Cave, are summer maternity roosts for ~ 100 million Mexican free-tailed bats
    • It is estimated that these bats eat about 2 million lbs of insects every night

Photo from


Tadarida brasiliensis

Mexican Free-tailed bat

Photo From BCI:

bats aloft a study of high altitude feeding
Bats Aloft: A Study of High Altitude Feeding
  • Bat Biologists Knew:
    • Mexican Free-tailed bats fly as high as 10,000 ft.
    • Densest aggregations are at 600 – 3,200 ft.
  • Entomologists Knew:
    • Corn earworms are one of the most destructive Ag. pests in US
    • Corn earworm moths fly at same altitudes during dispersal
      • Early June: emerge from Lower Rio Grande Valley of Mexico
      • 3 days after peak emergence in Mexico, moths begin laying eggs on agricultural crops in Central Texas
      • 3 weeks later, next generation spreads north through the Central US


Could the free-tail bats be eating

corn earworm moths?????

the problem

The Problem

Helicoverpa zea

Corn Earworm

bats aloft partners
“Bats Aloft” Partners
  • Dr. Gary F. McCracken, University of Tennessee
  • Dr. Wayne Wolfe and Dr. John Westbrook of USDA Research Station in College Station, TX
  • U.S. Weather Service
  • Bat Conservation International
a problem of timing
A Problem of Timing
  • Researchers needed to know if the moths were flying in TX at the same time the bats were feeding
  • Seemed improbable because the moths were still traveling to TX when the bats emerged in the evening
  • Plus, other studies had shown that moths were only 30% of the bats diet - EXCEPT…..
  • Bats forge 2x a night- early evening and early morning
  • Further investigation showed that in early June, bats only ate 37% moths in the early evening but 96% moths during their dawn feeding!
doppler radar images

Doppler Radar Images

Images From: McCracken, G. F. 1996. BATS 14(3): 7-10 on

ok bats are beneficial but what about bats and rabies
Ok, Bats are Beneficial- but What About Bats and 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 in South GA. Surprisingly, otters are also a risk
rabies prevention
Rabies Prevention
  • DON’T HANDLE WILD MAMMALS, including bats!!!!!!
  • Keep your pets vaccinated
  • If you think you have been exposed, seek medical attention promptly
  • 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)
  • It is most often associated with bird droppings, but bat and rodent droppings also pose a risk- esp. in hot, humid climates
  • Keep your home and outbuildings free of fecal material
family vespertilionidae

Family Vespertilionidae:

The Evening Bats

rafinesque s big eared bat corynorhinus rafinesquii
Rafinesque’s Big-eared BatCorynorhinus rafinesquii
  • Rare- possibly declining in numbers due to habitat loss
  • Roosts in abandoned buildings, hollow trees and caves in or near bottomland hardwood habitats
  • Will glean insects from foliage or capture them in flight
  • Easily disturbed

Photo From BCI:

southeastern myotis myotis austroriparius
Southeastern MyotisMyotis austroriparius
  • Species of Concern by USFWS
  • Cave bat eastern US
  • Roosts in hollow trees, culverts, and bridges in areas w/o caves
  • Also associated with bottomland hardwood areas
  • Only Myotis bat to have twins

Photo From BCI:

big brown bat eptesicus fuscus
Big Brown BatEptesicus fuscus
  • One of the most common bats in urban areas and bat houses
  • Often roots 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
Eastern Red BatLasiurus 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
Hoary BatLasiurus cinereus
  • Solitary, roots 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:

evening bat nycticeius humeralis
Evening Bat Nycticeius humeralis
  • Abundant in SE US
  • Forest bat- hardly ever in caves
  • Little is known about its migration patterns

Photo From BCI:

eastern pipistrelle pipistrellus subflavus
Eastern PipistrellePipistrellus 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
Northen Yellow BatLasiurus 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:

family molossidae

Family Molossidae

The Free-tailed Bats

mexican free tailed bat tadarida brasiliensis
Mexican Free-tailed BatTadarida brasiliensis
  • Another very common urban and bat house bat
  • One of most widely distributed mammals in Western Hemisphere
  • Highly gregarious
  • Much of the population is migratory

Photo From BCI:

other bats in georgia
Other Bats in Georgia
  • Silver-haired bat
  • Seminole bat
  • Gray myotis
  • Small-footed myotis
  • Little brown myotis
  • Eastern long-eared myotis
  • Indiana myotis- ENDANGERED
threats to bat populations
Threats to Bat Populations
  • Habitat destruction/fragmentation
  • Loss of historical roost sites
  • Disturbance of roost sites, esp. caves
  • Ignorance:
    • General public: negative attitudes
    • Scientific: Very little is known about the distribution, numbers and specific requirements of most bat species
hot topics in bat research
Hot Topics in Bat Research
  • Phylogeny and evolution
  • Functional morphology
  • Echolocation
  • Conservation Biology
    • North American Bat Conservation Partnership (NABCP) Strategic Plan
top 5 conservation research goals nabcp
Goal 1: Identify key resources- Flyways, roosts, drinking and foraging habitats

Goal 2: Establish baseline populations and trends

Goal 3: ID species requirements and limiting factors

Goal 4: Describe, quantify, and monitor the effects of current land-management practices and other human disturbances on bats.

Goal 5: Quantify the economic and social impacts of North American bats.

Top 5 Conservation Research Goals (NABCP)
top 4 management goals nabcp
Top 4 Management Goals (NABCP)
  • Goal 1: Develop management standards and guidelines for bats, including them in existing management plans for other wildlife and associated habitat.
  • Goal 2: Identify, protect, and enhance key roosting, feeding, and drinking resources for bats. Reestablish bat populations to the extent necessary.
  • Goal 3: Incorporate bat conservation language into existing statutes for wildlife protection.
  • Goal 4: Integrate strategic plans for bats into other existing plans and initiatives.
common methods for studying bat populations
Common Methods For Studying Bat Populations
  • Population Surveys: Counts
    • Direct Roost Counts
    • Nightly Dispersal Counts
    • Maternity Roost Counts
    • Ultrasonic Bat Detectors
      • Simple handheld
      • ANABAT (records for computer analysis)
  • Population Surveys: Captures
    • Mist Nets
    • Harp Traps
    • Trip Lines (over water sources)
basic habitat requirements for bats
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.
general practices that benefit bats
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 (BMP’s)
  • Wise use of insecticides
  • Keep cats indoors!
  • Leave known bat populations undisturbed
bat house design
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
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
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 isunobstructed

Photo From BCI:

Photo From BCI:

bats that will use bat houses in georgia
Bats That Will Use Bat Houses In Georgia
  • Little brown myotis
  • Southeastern myotis
  • Eastern pipistrelle
  • Big brown bat
  • Evening bat
  • Mexican free-tailed bat
recommended steps for bat management
Recommended Steps for Bat Management
  • Conduct bat surveys
  • Identify roosts- esp. maternity roosts
  • Provide artificial roosts (bat boxes)
  • Incorporate bat management practices into your overall management plan
  • Work with neighboring landowners to provide as much habitat as possible
  • Discourage human disturbance of bat roosts
  • Monitor bat populations and make the data available to researchers
for more information
For More Information
  • Bat Conservation International
  • Buzbee’s Bat House
  • Bat CREW