It’s finally Spooktober, and many people will be decorating their yards for the month of Halloween. When you think of Halloween, you might imagine creeping spiders, jack-o-lanterns, and of course, flying bats.
While bats might have a reputation as being spooky, or perhaps even dangerous, they’re really just suffering from some bad PR. Bats are fascinating, critical members of our Florida ecosystem. Let’s learn more about these Backyard Buddies.
Bats Common in Florida
There are 13 recognized native species of bat that fly around Florida, but only a few are commonly found:
Common Bat Species in Florida
- Evening bat
- Brazilian free-tailed bat
- South Eastern Myotis
- Seminole bat
- Northern yellow bat
- Eastern red bat
Less Common Bats in Florida
- Gray bat (and endangered species)
- Tricolored bat
- Hoary bat
- Rafinesque’s big-eared bat
- Florida bonneted bat (also endangered)
- Velvety free-tailed bat
- Big brown bat
All bats are protected under Florida Wildlife law and it’s illegal to kill them. So, if you encounter bats in your home or they become a problem in your area, do them no harm. Contact a professional to remove them safely. (Todd: do you have anyone you recommend?)
If you ever find yourself in Gainesville, the University of Florida’s bat houses are one of the most popular attractions. Don’t miss the sight of thousands of bats being released to hunt each night.
Average Size of Bats Found in Florida
The bats found in Florida are quite small—a far cry from the giant flapping monsters depicted in horror movies! Their body lengths are between 2 and 3 inches, with a wingspan from 8 to 15 inches.
Florida’s smallest bat is the tricolored bat, weighing in at a microscopic 0.3 oz. The “largest” bat found in Florida is the bonneted bat, which weighs between 1 oz and 1.7 oz. Not very large at all, right?
When Are Bats Most Active?
Some bats in Florida are active all year round and don’t hibernate, but other species are only active during certain months. For example, the Hoary bat is typically only spotted during its migration from the northern United States in October through to April.
The tricolor bat is one of three species in Florida that hibernate in caves during the winter months. Hibernation sites are found deep within caves, where warm, stable temperatures allow the bat to enter a state called torpor, which allows the creature to slow its metabolism and suppress its immune system.
All 13 of the bat species found in Florida are nocturnal, which means they sleep during the day and become active at dusk. During the day they sleep in trees, caves, abandoned buildings, man-made bat houses, and under bridges.
Some species roost in colonies, while others prefer to sleep alone. Solo bats are often encountered in tree cavities and branches, or even nestled into a cozy clump of Spanish moss or palm fronds. Use special caution if you’re doing yard work in these areas.
Bats are mammals and reproduce once a year, typically during the summer months (April 15 – August 15). Females will give birth to one or two live “pups” which weigh roughly 25% of Mom’s weight at birth.
(That’s like a human giving birth to a 30-40 pound baby!)
Bats will nurse their young for several months before they’re old enough to strike out on their own.
What Do Bats Eat?
When bats wake up and come out to play, it’s because it’s DINNERTIME! (Well, dinner time for us, breakfast for the bats.)
All the bats found natively in Florida are insectivores, which means they only eat insects. (That means no vampire bats.)
However, some non-native migratory that visit Florida a few months of the year are fruit bats. These guys feed on nectar, fruit, and pollen from flowers.
Florida bats will happily eat:
A single bat can eat its body weight in insects every night. Nursing females will eat double!
How are Bats Beneficial to Your Environment?
Thanks to their voracious appetites, bats are nature’s pest control. Their services reduce the need for harmful pesticides that destroy our natural habitat, and keep insect populations under control. Some insect species will wreak havoc on crops if they go uncontrolled, so our bat friends even play a role in food security!
Beyond being free, all-natural pest control, bats are also unsung heroes of pollination. Over 300 plant species (including bananas, mangoes, and agave—the plant used to make tequila) rely on bats to pollinate their flowers and spread seeds.
Finally, bats themselves are not the only contribution they make to the environment. Bat poop (called guano) is an incredible all-natural fertilizer, rich in nutrients and so sought-after you can even buy it on Amazon.
If you were frightened or creeped out by bats at the beginning of this post, I hope you’re feeling more positive towards these critical creatures now. If you encounter one (or more) of these “Backyard Buddies” please don’t hurt them.
The bats found in the Volusia/Flagler are small and harmless, and serve several important functions in our collective backyard. Consider accommodating the bats in your area by building houses outside for them, and don’t disturb them during hibernation.
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control