Monday, October 13, 2014

Florida Bats- Nature's Insect Repellant

There are good reasons to appreciate bats in Florida. One of the wonderful things that most bats do is eat insects!  By eating their body weight in insects each night, bats are the most important controller of night-flying insects, including many crop pests. Some bats eat fruit, nectar and seeds from plants. When the bats spit out the seeds or leave them in their droppings, they help new plants to grow. They also pollinate many kinds of plants, including vanilla beans, peaches, bananas and avocados.

Found throughout the state, the most common species of solitary bat found in southern Florida is the northern yellow bat. A large, yellowish-brown bat with short ears and long, silky fur; These bats are larger than the red and Seminole bats. Clumps of Spanish moss make good daytime roosting places for northern yellow bats. Small groups of males or slightly larger groups of females are often found roosting together in forested areas near a permanent source of water. They are seldom found roosting in houses or other manmade structures. They feed over open spaces: they are seen over golf courses, beaches, and along the edges of ponds, hunting for mosquitoes, flies, and other insect prey. Barn owls are known to prey on them. Unlike most other Lasiurus bats, they have only two nipples, and if a female gives birth to more than two offspring, usually only two survive. Young are born in May or June and are flying by June or July.

The silvered-haired bat is a medium-size bat. It's dark brown-black hairs are tipped with silver giving it an icy appearance. The silver-tipped hairs do not extend to the face or neck. Their ears are short, rounded and without fur. The silver-haired bats are migratory, and sometimes migrate in groups. There are several records of groups of weary bats descending upon ships at sea. Some bats netted during summer months and banded were recaptured over 100 miles away! A typical day roost for the silver-haired bat is the space behind a piece of loose bark on a tree. Individuals have also been found in woodpecker holes and on bird's nests. During migration they may be encountered in a wide variety of other shelters. Although they may appear in any kind of building, they favor open sheds, garages, and outbuildings rather than enclosed attics. They frequently rest in a pile of slabs, lumber, railroad ties, or fence posts, especially when migrating through the prairies where shelters are scarce.

The Eastern Pipistrelle, Florida's smallest bat, is a dainty yellowish to light-brown colored bat found throughout most of the state. Its individual hairs are tri-colored, giving the appearance of rings when the fur is blown on. Even though considered to be solitary in nature, Eastern Pipistrelles form small maternity colonies, usually no greater than 20 individuals. Summer colony roost sites include hollow trees, the underside of tree bark, manmade structures, the underside of shingles and Spanish moss. Colonies are often in the open and are exposed to more light than other bat species are exposed to. Eastern Pipistrelle's often use caves as winter roosts. They are one of the first to come out at night and are slow flyers with a somewhat erratic flight pattern. Because of their small size, Eastern Pipistrelles  are sometimes mistaken for moths. Adults weigh between 4 to 10 grams (or less than a half an ounce) and reach a forearm length of 1 to 1 1/2  inches. They are easily distinguished from other similar species by their tri-colored fur. Pipistrelles are nicknamed butterfly bats for their distinctive moth-like flight pattern.

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