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Wildlife Wonders

Today is Bat Day!

Why bats?  Because they are super cool and so misunderstood!  Did you know they are the only flying mammal? A single little brown bat can eat 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour!  The bones in their wings are similar to your arms and hands.  Look at the picture, in the DEEP Wildlife’s Just for Kids Batty About Bats, of a bat’s wings, you can see the resemblance. Look at your fingers and imagine a thin membrane of skin extending between the “hand” and the body, and between each finger bone. Bats move their wings like a hand, “swimming” through the air. The “thumb” extends out of the wing as a small claw, which bats use to climb up trees and other structures.

The German word for bats is “Fledermäuse,” which translates as “flying mice.” Many bat species do look a lot like flying rodents, but the fact is bats are more closely related to humans than they are to mice and rats.

Did you ever hear someone say “blind as a bat”?  Bats actually have good eyesight, but since they are out hunting at night, and it is hard to see at night, they have other methods for helping them to “see”.  A bat creates a loud, high-frequency sound that it sends out into the night. That sound is too high pitched for most of us to hear.  The sound reflects off the object, perhaps an insect like a mosquito or moth, and reflects back to the bat so it knows what is ahead of it. This is called “echolocation”.  Amazing!  Using echolocation, it takes about one second for a bat to detect and capture an insect.

Because of this remarkable ability they are able to detect even fine hairs so when people say bats will get tangled in your hair, that is just not going to happen.   

Bats are more beneficial than dangerous.  People are sometimes scared of bats because of rabies and some feed on blood.  The fact is that all mammals can carry rabies, but less than 1% of bats do and only three species feed on blood, generally the blood of cows, and they are only found in Latin America.

The smallest bat is the size of a mouse.  A little brown bat has a body length of 3-6 inches and a wingspan of 8-16″.  There are about 1,300 species of bats worldwide, 47 species in the United States, eight native to CT, and the largest, a fruit eater, has a wingspan of 6 feet. 

Predators of bats include owls, hawks, mice, snakes and small carnivores. 

Bats eat a variety of foods – 70% eat insects, tropical species eat fruit or nectar, and some bats catch frogs and fish. 

After they eat, they have to poop. Bat droppings are called guano. 

Bats typically live 14-20 years, but there have been records of them living over 30 years. 

Female bats will roost together to stay warm before they give birth to a baby bat called a pup.  Bats usually have one baby at a time, sometimes twins.  They are born mid-June to early July and grow quickly.  Some fly and hunt on their own when they are only one month old. 

In winter, many bats hibernate in caves and buildings. There are also tree roosting bats, they remain by themselves.  When bats hibernate their body temperature will go from 99-106oF, ours is about 98.6oF, down to 32oF. 

Because many bats hibernate together in caves that are very humid a fungus was able to grow.  In 2006, a disease caused by a fungus, the white-nose syndrome was discovered in North America, since then nearly 7 million bats have perished.

Since bats are so beneficial it is important we help to keep them alive.  They help to protect our food, they are pollinators, they protect us from mosquitoes and fruit-eating bats help disperse seeds. There are some things you can do to help and one is to learn more about bats and tell people what you have learned.  Build a bat house, celebrate bats by making some recipes from bat dependent foods, help track bats through Project Noah or your local wildlife organization (remember to never touch bats), or color a bat mural. 


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