Amazing Bat Facts

Epomophorus gambianus
Gambian Epauletted Bat
©Merlin D. Tuttle,
Bat Conservation International
Many kids and teachers are already familiar with Stellaluna, the young fruit bat from the enchanting children's book by Janell Cannon, but teachers may also want to visit this great Teachers Page if they're doing bat units for Earth fairs or Halloween. Here is a Kids' Page and here is a link to the Save Lucy Club, where kids can help protect North American bats.

A single little brown bat (myotis) can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes in a single hour, and is one of the world's longest-lived mammals for its size, with life spans of almost 40 years.

Bats are more closely related to humans and other primates than they are to rodents. Several studies indicate that the Old World fruit bats and flying foxes may actually be descended from early primates such as lemurs.

There are over 1200 known species of bats, just about 25% of all mammal species. Most of these bats are small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

Straw-colored Fruit Bat Pup
Orphaned Fruit Bat Pup
©Amanda Lollar,
Bat World Sanctuary
Most bat moms give birth to only a single pup each year, making them very vulnerable to extinction. Bats are the slowest reproducing mammals on earth for their size.

Contrary to popular myths, most bats have very good eyesight, have excellent echolocation so they do not become entangled in human hair, and seldom transmit disease to other animals or humans.

The world's smallest mammal is the bumblebee bat of Thailand which weighs about as much as a dime and is critically endangered due to habitat loss.

Giant flying foxes (fruit bats) that live in Indonesia have wingspans of nearly six feet.

Bats are very clean animals, and groom themselves almost constantly (when not eating or sleeping) to keep their fur soft and clean, like tiny cats.

The pallid bat of western North America is totally immune to the stings of the scorpions and centipedes upon which it feeds.

Tadaridus brasiliensis
Mexican Free-tailed Bat
©Amanda Lollar,
Bat World Sanctuary
The 30 million Mexican free-tailed bats from Bracken Cave in Texas eat 250 TONS of insects every summer night. They sometimes fly up to two miles high to feed or to catch tailwinds that carry them over long distances, and can fly at speeds of more than 60 miles per hour.

These Mexican free-tailed bat mothers can find and nurse their own young, even in huge colonies where many millions of pups cluster at up to 500 per square foot. The youngsters can be as curious and playful as many other animal babies.

A single colony of 150 big brown bats can protect local farmers from up to 33 million or more rootworms each summer.

A nursing little brown bat mother can eat more than her body weight nightly (up to 4,500 insects).

Many important agricultural plants, like bananas, peaches, bread-fruit, mangoes, cashews, almonds, dates and figs rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.

Tequila is produced from agave plants whose seed production drops to 1/3000th of normal without bat pollinators, such as the Mexican long-tongued bat.

Lasiurus cinereus
Hoary Bat
Photo courtesy of Dick Wilkins
Hoary bats are the most widely distributed bat in the Americas, ranging from northern Canada all the way down into South America, and there is even an endangered sub-species found out in the Hawaiian Islands.

Vampire bats adopt orphans, and are one of the few mammals known to risk their own lives to share food with less fortunate roost-mates.

An anticoagulant derived from vampire bat saliva is now used to treat human heart patients and stroke victims.

All mammals can contract rabies; however, even the less than half of 1% of bats that do, normally bite only in self-defense and pose little threat to people who do not handle them.

Nearly 40% of American bat species are in severe decline or already listed as endangered or threatened. Losses are occurring at alarming rates worldwide.

Providing bat houses can help build the populations of many valuable bat species that eat many crop-damaging insects, such as cucumber and June beetles, stink bugs, leafhoppers and corn worm moths. Bat houses furnish places for bats to roost, hibernate and raise young, in addition to the dwindling number of natural sites available to them.

Red bats, which live in tree foliage throughout most of North America, can withstand body temperatures as low as 23 degrees during winter hibernation.

Ectophylla alba
Honduran White Bats
©Merlin D. Tuttle,
Bat Conservation International
Little brown bats can reduce their heart rate to 20 beats per minute and can stop breathing altogether for 48 minutes at a time while hibernating. They may hibernate for more than seven months if left undisturbed, but can starve if they are awakened too many times during the winter, which causes them to run out of energy reserves before spring.

Tiny woolly bats of West Africa live in the large webs of colonial spiders.

The Honduran white bat is snow white with a yellow nose and ears. It cuts large leaves to make "tents" that protect its small colonies from jungle rains, one of 15 other species known to make tents.

Frog eating bats identify edible from poisonous frogs by listening to the mating calls of male frogs. Frogs counter by hiding and using short, difficult-to-locate calls.

Moths are also known to take evasive action when they hear the echolocation calls of bats, sometimes plummeting to the ground in an attempt to escape.

Indian Flying Fox
©Merlin D. Tuttle,
Bat Conservation International
Male Gambian epauletted bats of Africa have pouches in their shoulders that contain large, showy patches of white fur, which they flash during courtship to attract mates. The Chapin's free-tailed bats have big tufts of white fur on top of their heads, which they fluff up during courtship.

Bat droppings in caves support whole ecosystems of unique organisms, including bacteria useful in detoxifying wastes, improving detergents, and producing gasohol and antibiotics.

African heart-nosed bats can hear the footsteps of a beetle walking on sand from a distance of more than six feet.

Fishing bats have echolocation so sophisticated that they can detect a minnow's fin as fine as a human hair protruding only two millimeters above a pond's surface.

Desert ecosystems rely on nectar-feeding bats as primary pollinators of giant cacti, including the famous organ pipe and saguaro of Arizona.