Bats have gotten a bad rap from stories and movies, but they’re actually the best defense against nighttime insect pests. Some of our native bats can eat their weight in insects, and fruit-eating bats play a vital role in spreading seeds to repopulate our natural surroundings.
Misconceptions about bats can be cleared up through a little education. For instance, contrary to the old saying, “Blind as a bat,” bats are not blind. And bats do not attack humans or get caught in your hair. In fact, they are timid and avoid humans. Even more interesting is that bats are the only mammal capable of flight.
Bats live in many different habitats across Florida. They can be found in dry, upland pine forests, in hardwood forests along the banks of rivers, and most habitats in between. You probably have seen them flying around in your neighborhood. Some bats are loners and some gather in colonies.
With last summer’s Zika virus outbreak, there has been renewed interest in promoting neighborhood bat houses. Several websites can help with instructions and useful information. Zoo Miami (zoomiamiconservation.com) has information on houses and on our endangered bat, the Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus) whose total population is believed to be only in the hundreds. It gained federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in late 2013, and its range is limited to the southern tip of Florida and concentrated on the coastal ridges.
South Florida’s most common bats are the Brazilian free-tailed bat, the evening bat and the northern yellow bat. Some Florida bonneted bats have been recorded in western Broward County but not in urban areas. Of these species, only the northern yellow hasn’t been recorded in bat houses or structures. Brazilian free-tailed and evening bats live in colonies. Any bat house built for these species would need to be large enough to house the entire colony.
For information, check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (myfwc.com) or the University of Florida Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Department (wec.ufl.edu) websites.
Let’s help out our native bats so they can continue to be a beneficial part of our urban environment.
Your Own Bat Cave
Want to get involved? Build your bat houses and send us photos and we’ll share them on social media. You can send the photos to firstname.lastname@example.org. Files must be no larger than 5 megabytes.