Going Batty on International Bat Appreciation Day

By Tessa Giannini, Animal Care Professional 

There are over 1,300 species of bats in the world which means there is an amazing variety in how they live, eat, and reproduce. The vast majority of bats are immensely beneficial to humans by providing free pest control from insects, pollinating and/or dispersing seeds for over 300 plants! At ZooTampa we have two species of bats: African straw colored fruit bats and Malayan Flying foxes.

Here are my top batty facts:

African straw colored fruit bats:

  1. They have the largest mammal migration of any species in the world and the furthest migration of any African mammal.
  2. The females will undergo delayed implantation which basically means after breeding in April/May the fertilized egg doesn’t implant in the bats uterus until several months later to coincide with increased food sources found during migration in October. The pup is then born February/March of the following year.
  3. They are the second largest bat species in Africa, after the hammer head bat.
  4. They get their name, “straw colored,” from the ring of golden yellow fur around their necks.
  5. They have a wingspan of 2-2.5 feet wide.

Malayan Flying foxes:

  1. They are one of the largest species of bats in the world, with a wingspan of 5-6 feet wide!
  2. Although they are large and may look intimidating, these bats eat only fruit, nectar, and flowers. They provide important ecosystem services by pollinating or dispersing the seeds of many different plant species.
  3. They do not use echolocation to find their food, but instead rely on their excellent vision and sense of smell.
  4. This species often makes a variety of vocalizations to communicate with one another.
  5. Malayan flying foxes are considered Near Threatened by the IUCN, although in certain parts of their range they are Vulnerable. Much of this has to do with humans and clearing of the bats native habitat and food sources.

The more you know:

  1. Insect eating bats can eat up to 1200 mosquito sized insects in just one hour!
  2. There are 41 different species of bats in the United States, and of these nearly half are either endangered or threatened.
  3. One of the largest threats to bats is white-nose syndrome (a disease that affects hibernating bats and is caused by a fungus).
  4. The smallest bat in the world (and also the world’s smallest mammal) lives in Thailand and is called a bumble bee bat. It is only as big as a thumbnail and weighs less than a penny.
  5. The Florida Bonneted Bat is Florida’s largest bat species, but it is also Florida’s most endangered bat.
  6. Pups are often 1/3 of moms size, this is equivalent to human mothers giving birth to 40 pound babies!

All bats are protected species and it is illegal to kill them. If you find bats in your home you can hire a pest control company to humanely exclude the bats.

In Florida exclusion may not take place between April 16-August 14 because this is prime “maternity season.” Moms leave their babies while they hunt for food and if an exclusion device is put up while the babies are too young to fend for themselves, they could starve without their mother. Florida Bonneted bats breed year round, so make sure the bat species is properly identified before putting up an exclusion device. If you find a bat that needs help call a licensed wildlife rehabilitation facility to help out.

You can visit our bats during your next visit in Wallaroo!