Did you know there are more than 45 different types of bats just in the United States? Bats can range in size from as small as one inch to as large as a flying Yorkshire Terrier. Some eat insects, while others eat fruits and vegetables. Some are smooth-coated, and some are quite shaggy. Some have tiny nub-like ears, and others seem to sprout large satellites from their heads.
Although bats belong to a single order, Chiroptera, there are many species throughout the United States and the world. As the only mammal capable of true and sustained flight, bats are an incredibly diverse group with lots of unique adaptations and features.
At Central Plains Bat Removal, we love bats, and we hope you do, too. Our job is to remove them from people’s homes and businesses, but that’s not because we are afraid of them or don’t want them in our ecosystem. Bats are an important part of our balanced environment, as they pollinate fruit and eat thousands upon thousands of insects each night. Bats are a protected species, and they are fascinating animals to study.
Today we’re going to feature the silver-haired bat. Its scientific name, Lasionycteris noctivagans, is derived from the Greek and Latin for “night wandering shaggy bat.” These fuzzy, fluffy, insect-eaters are found all over the United States except Florida.
With a wingspan of 10-12 inches, silver-haired bats are considered medium-sized. They weigh about 8-12 grams and have short, rounded, furless ears. Their name comes from their singular fur, which is unlike any other bat. It’s dark brownish black, but the hair along the body has silver tips. This coloring gives the bat a sort of icy appearance that glistens in the moonlight. It’s kind of like the silver-haired bat went to the salon and asked for frosted highlights.
Where Do Silver-Haired Bats Live?
Native to the Dakotas, silver-haired bats are among the most common in the United States. They range as far north as Canada and Alaska, and as far south as northern Mexico. You may not have ever seen one, though. They are mostly solitary creatures and roost high in trees, usually in forests.
Since they live in wooded areas and mature forests, some of their habitats are threatened by continued deforestation. Clear-cutting for development and roads is especially devastating for this animal.
When someone or something destroys a bat’s habitat, the animal must seek a new place to roost each night, and more importantly, a place to hibernate for the winter. Continued human activity that endangers bats’ natural habitats is the most common factor that causes bats to take up residence in people’s homes or attics.
Like most bats, the silver-haired bat hibernates in the winter, typically for 5-6 months. Unlike many bat types, however, they are not fond of caves. In the northern regions of their range, though, they will sometimes choose a cave entrance for their winter slumber.
Typically, silver-haired bats hibernate in rock crevices, wood piles, cliff faces, and in small tree hollows or beneath sections of tree bark. Occasionally they will choose a building for their hibernation.
Bats must not be disturbed while hibernating. Doing so will very likely lead to their death. Hibernation is a calculated process that relies on continual slumber. The bat’s body goes into a state of stasis, with their heartbeat and breathing significantly slowed. They rely on their fat stores to survive. If they awaken, their body restarts, using valuable energy that they cannot recuperate.
Going back to sleep may leave them without enough reserves to survive the remainder of the winter. Attempting to forage and feed is problematic because their food sources are not available. Either way, it’s not good for the bat.
If you end up with a hibernating bat in your home or business, you’ll need to leave them there until May 1, when bat removal season begins. It’s not only cruel to disturb them, but it’s also illegal.
Are you a fan of ants, mosquitoes, moths, and flies? Most people prefer not to be surrounded by these insects. You can thank the silver-haired bat for eating thousands of these bugs every night. They also devour midges, leafhoppers, beetles, crickets, and caddisflies. Researchers have even observed them eating spiders and insect larvae on trees.
Silver-haired bats help farmers and foresters keep their crops healthy by controlling the insect population, especially those that can harm trees and plants. They also keep your backyard picnic from being overrun by flies or mosquitos.
One of the cool things about the silver-haired bat is how they eat. Most often, they catch and eat their insect prey while in mid-flight. Imagine that you’re a moth flying around, and a silver streak comes along suddenly and vacuums you up. You wouldn’t even know what happened. The silver-haired bat is an excellent hunter and forager.
These bats need to watch out for their own predators, too. Raccoons, skunks, owls, and feral cats are the most likely animals to catch and kill silver-haired bats. And humans, of course. Humans are threats to all wildlife.
Other Interesting Facts
- Silver-haired bats are one of the slowest flying bats in the United States, perhaps because they are eating while flying.
- They have a lifespan of about 12 years.
- When bats are born, the mother bat roosts with her head facing upward. She uses her tail to form a cup-shaped basket to catch the pup when it emerges. Two pups are born every year and are dependent on their moms for food for the first three or four months before they learn to fly and catch insects.
Central Plains Bat Removal Knows Bats
If you’ve spotted a bat in your home, contact the pros at Central Plains Bat Removal. We’ll help you identify it and make a plan to humanely and successfully remove and exclude it.
If you’re lucky enough to witness a silver-streak in the moonlit sky, and you’ve seen the elusive silver-haired bat, we’d love to hear your story. And don’t forget to thank them for keeping the population of annoying insects such as flies and mosquitoes more manageable.