The flying critters' spooky reputation is undeserved. These mammals are actually essential to the ecosystem. That’s right—we said mammal!
Bats are the only mammals that can fly, which is just one of neat things about this wildly unique animal.
This Halloween, let’s take a look at one of our favorite Florida Wildlife Corridor species and learn more about the important role they play in keeping Florida wild.
The Bats of Florida
Florida is home to 13 bat species that either live in the state year-round or just for a season. The most common Florida bat resident is the Brazilian free-tailed bat (also known as the Mexican free-tailed bat), which roosts collectively in colonies that can be as small as a few hundred bats or as big as many thousands. These small bats, which weigh only a half-ounce each, feast on moths, flies, and beetles and love to roost in man-made structures, like bat houses.
Another common bat in Florida is the Evening bat, who love the warmth so much that they migrate south (like snowbirds!) for the winter. You might spy these forest bats in the cavities of dead trees during the day and hunting insects like mosquitoes, moths, and flying ants at night.
Other Florida bats include the Seminole bat, Eastern red bat, and Rafinesque’s big-eared bat.
Did you know? There are two federally Endangered bats in Florida—the Florida bonneted bat, which is the state’s largest bat with a wingspan of 19 to 21 inches, and the Gray bat, which hibernates through the winter and is found in a single county in Florida’s northwest panhandle.
Bats Love the Florida Wildlife Corridor
Bats love the Florida Wildlife Corridor—just like you! From pine forests to the Everglades, bats can be found all along the Corridor. Because Florida doesn’t have a lot of natural caves, bats make do by roosting under bridges and roofs, in the bark and crevices of dead trees, under palm fronds, and even sometimes in Spanish moss.
Bats are essential creatures, providing natural services to humans and other species. What do they do, you might ask? Well for starters, they are pros at controlling insect populations. Many insect-eating bats can devour their weight in bugs in a single night! Bats also help to distribute seeds and produce a rich, natural fertilizer called guano that plants love. And though it’s not common in Florida, other bats across the globe feed on nectar, which helps to pollinate plants.
Did you know? Vampire bats are real! There are three species of bats that drink blood—but none of them are found in Florida.
Want to See some Bats in Action?
This fall, take a bat-actular field trip to the University of Florida’s incredible bat houses. The university’s campus in Gainesville boasts the largest occupied bat houses in the world. These two silted bat houses are home to between 450,000-500,000 Brazilian free-tailed, Southeastern, and Evening bats. Together, the bats eat an estimated 2.5 billion insects each night—that’s about 2,500 pounds of insects!
Visitors are welcome to come to the field seven nights a week to watch the bats emerge. The University of Florida recommends arriving before sunset to see the bats, who begin flying out of the houses about 20 minutes after the sun goes down.
For your best chance to see this amazing natural show, plan to visit on an evening when the temperature is above 65 degrees and the weather is clear. If it’s rainy, windy, or too cold, the bats may choose to stay inside for the night.
Have you ever had a bat fly too close for comfort? While it can be a little frightening when bats fly around your face or head, they usually aren’t actually interested in you. Insects, especially mosquitoes, are attracted to humans by the carbon dioxide that we exhale. When mosquitoes fly close to our faces, bats may fly in to snack on these little biting creatures. But don’t worry—as long as you don’t seriously bother the bat, they will be gone before you know it.
Interested in building your own bat house to support Florida’s bat population? Get plans, tips, and more information on the benefits of hosting a bat house on your property from the Florida Bat Conservancy.
Check out our social media @LiveWildlyFL for more bats on your feed!