Bats Are Our Friends

Bats are our friends! Photo: josdiiri - items/flickr-229688306
Bats are our friends! Photo: josdiiri – items/flickr-229688306

I am astonished how a little furry mammal can bring grown men to their knees. Bats are probably one of the most misunderstood members of the animal kingdom. People readily keep birds as pets and hamsters as pets but bats, who fly like birds and are small and furry like hamsters just freak people out.

It could be the fear of rabies but these days, if your vaccinated, you probably won’t get rabies. It’s actually very hard to come in close contact with a bat, let alone have it bite you. If one comes into your house, calmly leave and call the animal services people who will remove it for you. Or, shut the doors and open the windows in the room, turn off any bright lighting, and let the bat leave on it’s own.

What bats do best is eat insects and help polinate certain flowers which is a great thing.

Both Bat Conservation Int’l and the Organization for Bat Conservation help try to spread the good word about bats. You can learn all about their conservation efforts regarding bats as well as facts about bat species. You can even sponsor a bat and support their work.

Because we’re living in Eastern Pennsylvania, I’ve compiled a list of bats that call our area home. The facts are from the website. We also just discovered that a local baseball field turns into a bat paradise around dusk!

Types of Bats in Pennsylvania

Little Brown Bat – Myotis lucifugus

Variable shades of glossy brown above, with tips of hairs burnished brown; buff below. The Little Brown Myotis (commonly called the Little Brown Bat) is one of the most common bats in the U.S. and Canada. Its nitrate-rich guano was sold as fertilizer in the first half of the 20th century.

Keen’s Bat – Myotis keenii

Keen’s myotis is a medium-sized bat with a long tail. It does not demonstrate narrowly specialized habitat needs. It roosts in caves and trees in the summer, sometimes in small colonies. The bats hunt insects at night and are most active shortly after sunset and shortly before dawn. Larger groups of bats form colonies to hibernate together in the winter, sometimes in the same hibernaculum as other species of bats. As with other bats that hibernate, breeding takes place in the fall, but the fetus does not develop until spring. In the summer, males usually roost separately from females and their young.

Small-footed Bat – Myotis leibii

Glossy fur, light tan to golden brown above; buff to nearly white below. Black ears; black mask. Wings and interfemoral membrane dark brown. The hindfoot of the Eastern Small-footed Myotis is slightly smaller than that of most other members of the genus. It hibernates in small numbers in caves, often wedged into crevices, sometimes under rocks on the cave floor. The feeding and other habits of this species are little known.

Indiana Bat – Myotis sodalis

Uniformly dark pinkish brown. Lips, nose, and forearms pinkish. Ears moderate in size; tragus relatively short and rounded. Feet small; hairs on toes short and inconspicuous. In October, Indiana Myotises congregate in huge numbers (as many as 125,000 per cave) in a few large caves with low temperatures and high humidity. They hibernate in tightly packed clusters of hundreds of bats, only one row deep and so neatly aligned that the noses, lips, wrists, and ears of each bat can be seen.

Red Bat – Lasiurus borealis

Males bright red or orange-red; females dull red, brick, or chestnut. In East, both sexes frosted white on back and breast. By day, this solitary bat hangs 4 to 10 feet (1-3 m) above the ground among dense foliage that provides shade from above and at the sides but is open below, allowing a downward fall into flight. Emerging early in the evening, these fast fliers often use the same route each night in foraging for many kinds of insects, especially moths, beetles, plant hoppers, leafhoppers, ants, and flies.

Hoary Bat – Lasiurus cinereus

The largest bat in its range in the East. Pale brown above, with tips of fur heavily frosted white; throat buffy yellow. Ears short and rounded, with black, naked rims. The most widely distributed bat in the U.S. and Canada, the Hoary Bat emerges late in the evening to feed, mostly on moths. In summer, male Hoary Bats are found in the southwestern U.S., while the females are spread over the rest of the range. In fall, the females join the males in the Southwest and both sexes migrate to Mexico, lower California, and South America, where they spend the winter.

Seminole Bat -Lasiurus seminolus

Lasiurus seminolus is a medium-sized bat with deep mahogany fur which is frosted at the tips, giving the bat a distinct reddish-maroon hue, unlike the reddish orange of eastern red bats. The Seminole Bat spends most of its life in forests of mixed oak, pine, hickory, and blackgum or in lowland cypress stands and river swamps.

Silver-haired Bat – Lasionycteris noctivagans

A medium-size bat. Nearly black, with silvery-tipped hairs on back, giving frosted appearance. Interfemoral membrane lightly furred above. Short, rounded, naked ears. Generally regarded as a solitary, tree-roosting species, the Silver-haired Bat is usually found roosting under a slab of bark or in some other protected spot, although there are a few records of it roosting among foliage. It emerges in early evening, flying very slowly to feed on a variety of insects, especially moths, caddis flies, and flies.

Eastern Pipistrelle – Pipistrellus subflavus

The smallest bat in the East. Reddish to light brown. Hairs tricolored: dark at base, pale in middle, dark at tip. erging early from its daytime hiding place in a building or hollow tree, the Eastern Pipistrelle feeds on tiny insects, especially leafhoppers, plant hoppers, beetles, and flies. Maternity colonies are often found in buildings, but the great majority are probably in tree hollows. The number of bats in these colonies is very small, usually not more than 30 or 35 individuals.

Big Brown Bat – Eptisicus fuscus

A large bat. Brown above, varying from light (in deserts) to dark (in forests), usually glossy; belly paler, with hairs dark at base; wings and interfemoral membrane black. In much of the northern U.S. and Canada, this is the bat most often seen in winter, and the one usually found hibernating in buildings in urban areas. Very common throughout much of their range, Big Brown Bats spread out over the available area individually or in small groups. Those that reside in buildings, usually one to five per structure, hang from rafters, hibernate in cracks or under objects, or burrow in insulation.

Evening Bat – Nycticeius humeralis

This bat is like a small version of the big brown bat, with glossy brown fur and blackish face, wings and feet. It is noticeably smaller, however, typically reaching 4 inches (102 mm) in length with a wingspan of nearly 11 inches (280 mm). This species forages in a variety of semi-open habitats from wetlands and stream corridors to woodland edges and parks. They prey upon a great variety of flying insects from small beetles to flies and moths.


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