Bats are some of the most amazing creatures out there. Many people know common facts about them, such as bats are the only mammals that can fly. But fewer people realize just how numerous and diverse bats are, or how much they do to help people.
There are also many harmful myths and misconceptions about bats. With many bat species threatened or endangered, it is more important than ever to understand the role bats play in a healthy ecosystem.
Have you ever stopped to ask: How many species of bats are there? What role do bats play in our environment? What should I do if I discover bats living in my attic or barn?
Read on to learn more about these amazing animals. And if you think you might have bats living in your home, contact Central Plains Bat Removal for effective, humane bat removal services.
How Many Species of Bats Are There?
Bats are not only numerous and diverse–they are the second-largest group of mammals in the world, second only to rodents. Contrary to popular opinion, they aren’t related to rodents at all.
Astonishingly, there are over 1,400 identified species of bats. This is almost 20% of all mammal species.
There are two major families of bats: megabats and microbats. You might think that this just refers to differences in size. But the difference between the two families is much more complex.
Microbats navigate using echolocation. This means that they emit very high-pitched sounds that bounce back when they hit objects in their path. They use these sounds to find insects to eat.
Megabats (sometimes called fruit bats or flying foxes) navigate using their keen sense of sight and hearing. They often eat fruit, pollen, or nectar, so they are very important pollinators in your local ecosystem. They are often, but not always, larger than microbats, and contain the largest bat species.
However, recent research has shown that these classifications are a bit more complicated than previously thought. Some microbats are larger than megabats, and some insect-eating bats are actually more closely related to megabats than other microbats.
Common Bats in My Area
In South Dakota and surrounding areas, there are 12 species of bats. If you are in or around Sioux Falls, you are most likely to see one of two species: the Big Brown Bat or the Little Brown Myotis Bat. Other bat species include:
- Eastern Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis)
- Evening Bat (Nycticeius humeralis) – Migratory
- Fringed Myotis (Myotis thysanodes)
- Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus) – Summer resident
- Long-eared Myotis (Myotis evotis)
- Long-legged Myotis (Myotis volans)
- Northern Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis)
- Silver-haired Bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans) – Summer resident
- Townsend’s Big-eared Bat (Corynorhinus townsendii)
- Western Small-footed Myotis (Myotis ciliolabrum)
Read on for fascinating facts about some bat species you are most likely to encounter.
Big Brown Bat
The Big Brown Bat, or Eptesicus Fuscus, can be found throughout almost all of North America. While they prefer deciduous forest environments, they are increasingly found in suburban areas with mixed agricultural use. They can eat astonishingly large numbers of insects, especially crop and forest pests such as cucumber beetles, which can be very destructive to corn crops.
Little Brown Myotis Bat
Little Brown Myotis Bats are also found throughout most of North America, and frequently roost in buildings and attics. They seem to require more protection from predators, and so gravitate towards protected spots. They eat tremendous amounts of insects, including mosquitoes and other annoying bugs. During peak feeding, a single bat can catch up to 1,200 insects in just one hour!
Townsend’s Big-Eared Bat
These bats look just how their name describes them. In addition to their striking ears, they have incredibly sensitive echolocation. They will often form a large bat colony in caves or abandoned mines and will hibernate there in the winter.
Like many species of bats, their population has declined significantly. They are very sensitive to disturbance, and two subspecies are endangered.
Eastern Red Bat
This species of “tree bat“ is common wherever there are trees east of the Rocky Mountains. In the summer, they are some of the first evening fliers you will see. They feed on moths and other insects around streetlights, in clearings, and at the edges of forests.
However, in the fall, their behavior becomes much more mysterious. They follow the same Atlantic seaboard migratory paths as many species of birds, migrating very long distances. However, very little is known about where they go in the winter, or what they do.
There are some reports from the 1800s of seeing large flocks of Eastern Red Bats passing overhead in broad daylight! However, it has been many decades since any sightings of this kind have been reported.
How Do Bats Help the Environment?
Bats play so many roles in helping our environment. Despite their sometimes fearsome reputation, bats can also co-exist wonderfully with humans. Many bat species, like the Big Brown Bat, play an essential role in managing crop pests naturally.
Some farmers even put up artificial roosts, attracting the bats so they are close enough to help keep insects under control, but far enough to keep them out of their homes and barns.
Other bats, like the Little Brown Myotis Bat, eat thousands of mosquitoes and other insects that pester people or even spread disease. And many types of fruit bats play essential roles as pollinators.
What Should I Do if I Have Bats?
First, remember that most of the scariest stories about bats are myths. Even vampire bats (which don’t live in the region) don’t feed on blood (or at least the blood of people), and you can’t get rabies from bat urine, guano, or blood.
You’ve already taken the time to educate yourself about bats. Now you know all sorts of things about bats, like how many species of bats are there, and how bats can help the environment. You also know that bats are essential to your local ecosystem and that humans can co-exist with bats.
The best thing you can do is avoid handling the bats and just call Central Plains Bat Removal. We will ask you a few questions, set up an appointment to assess your situation, and give you a fair quote. Not only will we remove the bats safely and humanely, but we will also prevent them from coming back.