When you think of bats, do you imagine vampires sucking your blood or scary Halloween decorations? If so, you might want to reconsider those preconceived notions. Bats are very misunderstood mammals that don’t hurt humans or our pets. On the contrary, these creatures serve a vital role in our ecosystem.
The Benefits of Bats
Let’s learn more about the different types of bats in Florida and the important function they serve. Once you learn how amazing bats are, you might want to encourage them to move into your backyard!
Facts About Bats
Bats are small winged mammals of the order Chiroptera and can be found throughout the world. Their forelimbs (arms) have webbed wings, and they are the only mammals that can maintain true flight.
The vast majority are insectivores, meaning they eat flying insects. Some species eat fruit and nectar. Only a few rare species eat living creatures other than insects. Out of 1200 species, only three feast on blood. These bats are only found in Central and South America. Rather than sucking blood, they only make small bites in livestock and lap at the blood, causing little harm to the animals.
Bats are considered essential to sustaining life, for many areas could not exist without bats to pollinate plants and disperse seeds.
Bats are not blind and many have quite good vision. However, they have adapted to flying at night through the use of echolocation, the use of sound waves to detect objects. This allows them to see insects as tiny as mosquitoes in complete darkness.
Bat Species in Florida
Here in Florida, we have 13 bat species, two of which are endangered.
- Tricolored Bat
- Southeastern Myotis
- Gray Bat
- Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat
- Big Brown Bat
- Evening Bat
- Eastern Red Bat
- Seminole Bat
- Northern Yellow Bat
- Hoary Bat
- Brazilian (Mexican) Free-tailed Bat
- Velvety Free-tailed Bat
- Florida Bonneted Bat
Bats can be found throughout our state, in all different habitats including urban areas. They like to roost in caves, tree hollows, in palm trees, and in Spanish moss. They also sleep under roofs and bridges, and anywhere else they can find safe, quiet, cool daytime residences.
Debunking Myths About Bats
Horror movies give bats a bad reputation. However, the real fear comes from people believing that they will get rabies from bats. While it’s true that bats can become infected with rabies just like any mammal, less than 1% of all bats ever will come in contact with rabid animals and become ill.
The only time you should be concerned when you find a bat on the ground. Because there’s a better chance they could be infected, it’s best to leave them alone, and teach your children to do the same.
Only Insects Should Fear Bats
Each bat can eat thousands of insects each night. It’s estimated that bats save over $3.7 billion a year by reducing crop damage and the need for pesticides. Bats particularly enjoy the bugs that feast on crops like tomatoes, corn, sugarcane, cotton, beans and more.
They also help keep mosquito populations down. A single colony of bats can easily munch on a million mosquitoes or more a night.
Bats help pollinate flowering plants and help scatter seeds, allowing plants to propagate. Bat Conservation International points out that many tropical plants require bats for pollination. A few plants that bats help to pollinate include bananas, peaches, avocados, dates, figs, mangoes, carob, and agave.
Saving the Bats
According to the University of Florida IFAS Extension service, bat populations are in decline across the country. They struggle against habitat destruction caused by urban development, as well as increasing pesticide and herbicide use. If you want to learn more about why it’s important to save the bats, check out the National Wildlife Federation’s bat facts as well as the website of Bat Conservation International.
Attracting Bats to your Property
Have we convinced you yet that bats are awesome? If you agree, consider doing your part to encourage bats to roost on your property. In return, they’ll eat their weight many times over in mosquitoes and other flying pests.
Bats love unpruned cabbage palms and trees with cavities where they can sleep during they day. If those aren’t options, consider installing a bat house. You can buy them at many of the same places that sell birdhouses, including online, or you can even build your own. Learn more about bat housing from the University of Florida IFAS Extension.
Also consider your landscape. Planting native wildflowers and shrubs will attract insects for the bats to eat, and protecting wetlands and providing additional water sources will make your property more bat-friendly.
Just having bats on your property won’t completely eliminate mosquitoes from your property, but it will help. Having a mosquito control plan in place at your home will help prevent mosquito harborage areas and protect you and your family from dangerous diseases, including the Zika virus.
As you are creating a welcome environment for bats, you will want to make sure that bats aren’t actually roosting inside your home. Dozens of bats can live on a single roof tile and their guano can cause lung disease and allergies. As beneficial as bats are, they can spread fatal diseases to humans, including rabies and histoplasmosis through bites, saliva or droppings. If you do think bats have taken up residence in your residence, contact a pest control professional to remove the bats and seal your roof to prevent re-entry.
Need a Hand?
If you’d like help controlling mosquitoes or other common pests on your property, ABC Home & Commercial Services can help. You can count on our experts to have the knowledge and experience about local pests and wildlife to make recommendations on how to rid your property of aggravating insects and other pests. We work with homeowners to come up with creative solutions to handle even the most perplexing pest problems.