A Bit About Bats
Interesting information on one of Iowa's most helpful inhabitants
Bats are the only animal in the order Chiroptera. Loosely translated it means “winged hand”. The bats wing is supported by long, slender finger bones.
Bats are mammals, they have fur and nurse their young. Bats are more closely related to primates than other mammals or birds.
There are over 1000 species of bats. Thirty percent of all bats eat insects, the other 70% eat fruit, and two species of bats live on the blood of other animals (vampire bats). All nine species of bats found in Iowa eat insects. The most common bat in Iowa is the Big Brown Bat, the least numerous is the Indiana Myotis, a federally endangered species. Other species found in Iowa include: Little Brown Bat, Red Bat, Hoary Bat, Keen’s Myotis, Silver-haired Bat, Eastern Pipistrelle, and the Evening Bat.
Iowa bats usually mate in the fall and begin gestation in the spring. Young bats are born in late May or early June. Most bats have only one young per year. The Red Bat may have up to five babies. Many bats carry their young when they hunt. Others leave their babies in a bat nursery with an adult bat acting as a babysitter. By the first part of August, young bats begin to fly with their parents. That’s why in August it is common to find a bat in your home. Young just learning to fly become confused and end up in places they don’t want to be! (See the section on “excluding Bats From Your Home”.
In Iowa there are no insects available to eat in winter. Bats either hibernate or migrate during the cold winter months.
Interesting facts about Bats
-Nearly 1000 kinds of bats account for almost a quarter of all mammal species.
-An Iowa bat can eat up to 10,000 insects a night.
-A colony of 150 Big Brown Bats can protect local farmers from up to 18 million or more root worms each summer.
-Bats hear by a system of echolocation. They emit high-pitched sounds which bounce off their prey and surroundings and are reflected back to the bats’ ears. Their hearing is better than any sonar or radar developed by humans.
-Bats are the only living mammals capable of sustained self-powered flight.
-Bats may live up to 20 or more years.
-Tropical bats are key elements in the rain forest ecosystems, which rely on them to pollinate flowers and disperse seeds for countless trees and shrubs.
-In the wild, important agricultural plants, from bananas, breadfruit, and mangoes to cashews, dates, and figs rely on bats for pollination and seed dispersal.
A Bat in Your House?
An unwelcome flying visitor? Open a window or door to the outside. Bats have the most amazing hearing of any animal on earth (elocution). They will find it and leave. No self respecting bat that eats between 3,000 and 10,000 insects a night want to be in your house!
If it is necessary to catch the bat to put it out, confine the bat to one room. Sit and watch as the bat flies around. (If it appears to dive at you or near you, it is because bats, when changing direction in a small area, must dive down after making their turn to increase flying speed.) Where light gloves. The bat will eventually land on the floor, wall, or on or behind a curtain. When the bat has landed, approach slowly and place a plastic dish over it then slide a piece of cardboard underneath to trap the bat in the dish. . . or gently put a towel over it and gather the bat in the towel. If the weather is warm take the bat outside. Carefully set it on the limb of a tree four or more feet high, safe from predators and high enough for the bat to take-off into the air. Bats cannot jump and fly from the ground like birds, they need to jump and swoop form a hight. If put on the ground most bats will need to climb a tree before taking flight. NEVER HANDLE A BAT DIRECTLY. . . WEAR GLOVES.