|Florida Nature: Bats (2)|
Bats are mammals. They account for more than 25 percent of all the
mammals on the earth! Bats are the only mammals that can fly. There are
good reasons to appreciate bats in Florida. One of the wonderful things
that most bats do is eat insects! By eating their body weight in
insects each night, bats are the most important controller of
night-flying insects, including many crop pests. Some bats eat fruit,
nectar and seeds from plants. When the bats spit out the seeds or leave
them in their droppings, they help new plants to grow. They also
pollinate many kinds of plants, including vanilla beans, peaches,
bananas and avocados.
Hoary Bat- The most beautiful of Florida's bats is the hoary bat. Hoary bats can't be easily confused with any other bat in Florida. Their fur is a mixed brown-gray color with heavy white fringe, giving them a frosted appearance. Hoary bats are not considered residents because they are found in Florida only during the spring and autumn when they migrate to and from Mexico and South America, where they spend the winter months. Hoary bats spend the summer days hidden in the foliage of trees. Much like the red bat, they choose a leafy site open beneath them, and usually 10-15 feet above the ground. Because hoary bats are solitary roosting bats and keep themselves well hidden, this species is usually never encountered by humans. In the evening, the hoary bat emerges late, and like red bats, they may wake and fly during late afternoons on warm winter days. Almost nothing is known of the feeding habits of this species, however it is suggested that hoary bats feed on moths, beetles, and mosquitoes. Hoary bats mate in the fall and like most bats do not become pregnant until early spring.
Indiana Bat- The Indiana bat is a medium-sized bat, closely resembling the little brown bat but differing in coloration. Its fur is a dull grayfish chestnut rather than bronze, with the basal portion of the hairs of the back dull lead colored. This bat's underparts are pinkish to cinnamon, and its hind feet smaller and more delicate than the little brown bat. It's heel of the foot is strongly keeled. The Indiana bat is an endangered mammal in Florida. With the coming of spring, Indiana bats disperse from their winter homes, known as hibernacula, some going hundreds of miles. They feed solely on flying insects and presumably males spend the summer preparing for the breeding season and winter that follows. Females congregate in nursery colonies, only a handful of which have ever been discovered.
Jamaican Fruit Bat- The Jamaican fruit bat has gray-brown fur and indistinct, whitish facial stripes. It has no tail, and the membrane stretching between its legs is small and u-shaped. Its length is about 3.5 inches. The Jamaican fruit bat has a fleshy nose leaf resembling a third ear positioned on the muzzle. The Jamaican fruit bat is one of the heavier species, weighing 40–65 grams (1.4–2.3 ounces). This bat smells like perfumed soap. These bats can be found in the dry deciduous and tropical evergreen forests of Mexico, south to northern Argentina and the Lesser and Greater Antilles. The Jamaican fruit bat mainly eats fruit but they will supplement their diet with pollen, nectar and small insects if necessary.
Little Brown Bat-The little brown bat is a small mammal with a body length of 3 - 31/2 inches and weighing approximately 1/8 to 1/2 an ounce. The wingspan of little brown bats range from 6 - 8 inches. As their name suggests little brown bats are glossy brown above with a light buff color below. These bats can live 20 to 30 years. In summer the little brown bat inhabits trees, bat houses, and buildings, usually choosing a hot attic, where nursery colonies of hundreds and even thousands form. Less frequently colonies form beneath tar paper, siding, shingles, or other similar sheltered spots,. In the west colonies have been found beneath bridges and in caves. Single males have been found in attics, behind shutters under bark, in rock crevices, behind siding and under shingles. Groups of males occasionally occur in caves.
Mexican Free-tailed Bat- The Mexican free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) is a medium sized bat. Their bodies are about 9 centimeters in length, and they weigh about 15 grams. Their ears are wide and set apart to help them find prey with echolocation. Its fur color varies from dark brown to gray. Mexican free-tailed bats live in caves in the southern United States, Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, central Chile and Argentina. Their colonies are the largest congregations of mammals in the world! The largest colony is found at Bracken Cave, north of San Antonio, Texas, with nearly 20 million bats. The bats of Bracken Cave can eat up to 250 tons of insects per night!
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