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Little brown bats in a New York cave showing the symptoms of white-nose syndrome. Photo By NYDEC; Nancy Heaslip

Little brown bats in a New York cave showing the symptoms of white-nose syndrome. Photo By NYDEC; Nancy Heaslip


Bat Facts Calendar



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New research shows that bats contribute billions of dollars' worth of services to U.S. agriculture. University of California, Davis, scientist Katherine Ingram has been working to put a monetary value on services such as pest control provided by bats in California orchards. Other recent studies have arrived at a range of figures for the value to U.S. farmers, from $3.7 billion to $22.9 billion.

Biologists from Southern Illinois University studied what happens when bats are only allowed to protect certain sections of a cornfield. They found that bats boosted crop yields by 1.4 percent overall, a service to corn farmers worth about $1 billion globally.  On top of limiting pest outbreaks, the research also showed how bats protect plants from fungal infections that can develop in insect-damaged tissue.
Winemakers in Portugal are putting up bat houses to attract bats and help rid the vineyards of leaf-munching insects, allowing farmers to cut back on pesticides.  “We decided to attract bats to our property and use them as allies in pest control in the vineyards, due to the type of agriculture practiced on the property.”  One estate installed 20 wooden bat boxes that soon housed 330 bats.

The only insect-eating bat in Polynesia is one of five wildlife species in American Samoa recently proposed for listing as endangered.  The Pacific sheath-tailed bat (Emballonura semicaudata semicaudata) may already be extinct in American Samoa. Scientists estimated its population at 11,000 in the 1970s, but surveys in 2008 and 2012 found no bats at all.
The Pacific sheath-tailed bat (Emballonura semicaudata semicaudata) is cave-dependent, emerging at dusk to eat flying insects. It faces threats from deforestation, disease and guano mining, among other things.
Not just hummingbirds love hummingbird feeders! In Arizona's Tucson Basin, lesser long-nosed bats (Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae) visit feeders while hummingbirds sleep. Volunteers monitor bat use of feeders and help scientists gain a better understanding of this federally endangered species.
Populations of bats reduced by white-nose syndrome are unlikely to return to healthy levels in the near future.  USGS and FWS scientists evaluated the potential for little brown bats in the eastern United States that survive WNS to repopulate.  They estimated that between the years 2016 and 2018, little brown bat populations that once contained millions of bats could decrease to lower than 100,000.
Has white-nose syndrome arrived in your state?  You can find out. Many states have information posted about WNS, the response, and what you can do to help.
States use citizen reports to help track WNS and other causes of bat mortality.  Web-based reporting is used in many states – here are examples from Vermont, Indiana, and Florida. Check online or contact your state natural resources agency to find out how to report sick bats in your state.
We can all help bats this time of year by staying out of caves and mines where bats hibernate. Honor cave closures and gated caves. Human-disturbance during hibernation is deadly for bats. During all seasons, it is important to take precautions not to spread the fungus that causes WNS.
Today is Veterans Day, an official United States holiday celebrating the service of all U.S. military veterans. Find out about Veterans Day activities in your area. Tomorrow bat facts will feature a project involving bats in the military.
During WWII, the military worked on a project that involved using bats to carry small incendiary bombs.  Tests were conducted, but complications, including escaped bats setting fire to a hangar and a general’s car, led to the cancelling the project. Read more about the bat bombers.
The Air Force has been studying bat flight to develop micro aircraft. Scientists study high speed video of bats in flight. Check out this video about what bats can teach us about flight.
Bats have made their way into many military insignia, including “Seabat,” an anchor-toting bat that was the insignia of a Naval engineering station. Here is the "Seabat" and other examples of military insignia featuring bats.
At least three U.S. states have an official state bat. Texas and Oklahoma are represented by the Mexican free-tailed bat and Virginia is represented by the Virginia big-eared bat.
The eastern small-footed bat doesn"t just have small feet, it is among the smallest bats in eastern North America. At just 4 to 8 grams, it weighs less than two nickels!
Next we’ll focus on life expectancy in bats. Do you know how long most insectivorous bats in North America live? You will if you keep reading bat facts.
The oldest known Indiana bat in the wild was a female captured 20 years after she was banded as an adult, making her at least 21 years old. The average life expectancy in the wild is much lower, with relatively few Indiana bats surviving for 10 years.
For their body size, bats live longer than any other order of mammal.  On average, the maximum recorded life span of a bat is 3.5 times greater other mammals of similar size.
Why do bats live longer than other small mammals?  Hibernation may be one key.  Hibernation reduces the risk of predation because bats tend to hibernate within caves in areas not accessible to predators.  Decreased body temperature and metabolism during hibernation may also promote longevity.
A tiny bat from Siberia set the record for the world’s oldest bat.  Brandt's bats, which weigh about 4 to 8 grams (0.14 to 0.28 ounces), have the longest life span for their body size. One bat lived at least 41 years in the wild.
The precise reasons for long life in Brandt’s and other bats are of interest to scientists who study aging.  Some research suggests that bats are resistant to cellular damage from oxidation. Bat cells survive doses of radiation with much less damage than mouse cells exposed to the same stresses. 
Only one bat has adapted to living year-round in buildings in the northern half of the United States and Canada.  If you live in this region and find a bat in your home or yard during winter, it is almost certainly a big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus). Unlike most North American cave-dwellers, big brown bats can survive body temperatures well below freezing and are therefore able to hibernate in attics and wall spaces.
Bats have existed for over 50 million years and during this period have diversified into more than 1,000 species. They have evolved an incredibly rich diversity of feeding habits that includes feeding on insects, nectar, fruit, frogs, fish, and small mammals. In the process, they provide many benefits to people that we’ll discuss in the coming days.
Tropical forests are of global ecological importance; they are a key contributor to the carbon balance and host a major part of the world’s biodiversity. Frugivorous bats (bats that eat fruit) help maintain diversity of these forests by dispersing seeds from fruits that they eat. Scientists are looking to bats to help restore tropical forests that have been destroyed.
Happy Thanksgiving! Some of your Thanksgiving feast may rely on bats for pollination. Over 300 species of fruit, including mangoes and bananas, depend on bats for pollination. The agave plant, used to make tequila, is also pollinated by bats. Include bats on the list of things you are thankful for today!
Most bats in the U.S. eat insects, including many pest species. One researcher estimated that a colony of 150 big brown bats in the Midwest annually eats more than 1 million agricultural pests, including 600,000 cucumber beetles, 194,000 scarab beetles, 335,000 stinkbugs, and 158,000 leafhoppers.
Some bats like more exotic fare than insects!  This video features the fringe-lipped bat of Panama, a frog eater.  The long-fingered bat is the first bat species in Europe known to catch and eat fish.
Bats are the only flying animals with prominent external ears. Looking at their ears and other facial features, conventional wisdom might suggest these are impediments to flight -- making bats less aerodynamic compared to birds.
Scientists used 3D printed models of bats to study their aerodynamics and found that, although bat facial and head features do result in considerable drag, they also “generate substantial lift,” indicating that bats are as aerodynamic as birds.
Last updated: October 26, 2015