Bats

Are Bats Dangerous?

Bats are a unique mammal that has a long and storied history full of misconceptions. Through time, they’ve become associated with evil of many forms such as sorcery, witchcraft, haunted cemeteries, and vampires. Bats also have long been feared due to a belief that rabies is rampant within their population. This is only partially true. Bats can carry rabies, but it is rare and most bats prefer to avoid interaction with humans so the chances of transmittal are low except when performing bat control work.

What is true about bats is they’re nocturnal and the only mammal truly capable of flight. Bats are beneficial to humans since common species feed entirely on insects. Some people even choose to install bat houses on their property to encourage nesting.

Species

Though bats are distinct as a family, individual species can be difficult to differentiate. There are over 980 species of bats worldwide with approximately 40 of them residing in the United States.

The three most common species encountered domestically are the big brown bat, the little brown bat, and the Mexican free-tailed bat. These can be difficult to tell apart (even for a professional), so it’s recommended that an expert be consulted prior to attempting any control efforts.

Appearance

Bats range in size across the different species, but tend to average about 2 ¼” to 7 ½” in length (tip to tail) with a wingspread of approximately 6” to 15”. Most weigh between 1/8 oz. and 2 1/8 oz. (in the U.S.). Bats’ bodies are covered with hair varying in color from tan to black. Their wings stretch across elongated arm and finger bones.

Most bats have pointed ears and have the characteristic wing made of leathery skin as there is no fur on the wings. Bats also have teeth. When roosting, bats commonly hold on to their roost with their hind legs, hanging upside down. They cannot grasp with their front legs as the toes, known as fingers, are the support of the wing.

Diet & Behavior

Most bats are insectivores, feeding on insects at night. Bats will also frequent outside lighting where insects will be flying in warmer weather. They may also be found near swimming pools as insects might be attracted to these areas.There are some species that prefer other foods such as fruits, but most of these are not usually found in the United States.

Bats can be either colonial bats, living in colonies, or solitary bats, living alone or with just a few other bats. There is no queen bat in colonies; the bats just aggregate together.

Habitat & Nesting

Bats emerge in the early days of spring and leave their overwintering sites for summer homes. Typically, the first to establish nesting areas are the females ready to give birth. Because of their impending maternity, these new colonies are known as maternity or nursery colonies.

Baby bats are usually born during the months of June and July. The infant bats breastfeed until they’re ready to fly and hunt food on their own (typically, three to seven weeks old). The bats remain in this roost until the fall when it’s time to overwinter. Prior to leaving for winter residence, males begin arriving at these colonies in large numbers ready to mate with the female inhabitants.

Winter hibernation is an instinct felt by all domestic bat species. Some travel less than one hundred miles while others travel thousands of miles from their summer roost. Equally as fascinating is that some species winter in small groups while others choose to gather in large numbers for their winter rest.

Bat Control

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