Meet the Natives

| October 1, 2013

Bats for Halloween fun, even on Siesta Key
By Paul Roat

With Halloween just around the corner, it only seems appropriate to mention the unnecessarily spooky elements of the holiday: bats.

And bats are pretty much everywhere, even Siesta Key.

Basically, bats are our friends, according to the Nature Conservancy, an international nonprofit group that preserves plants and animals by purchasing native habitat and protecting it from development.

In fact, without bats there probably would be no margaritas. Bats, it seems, are the pollination source for agave, the key ingredient in tequila. No bats, no pollination of agave flowers, no more agave, no more tequila.

There are 1,100 bat species found worldwide, which means that bats comprise about one-quarter of all the mammal species found on the planet. Bats are found in every state in the United States.

Siesta Key’s bats are Brazilian Free-Tail. They get the free-tailed name because the end of the tail looks like a mouse tail and swings free. The Brazilian free-tailed bat is one of the most abundant native mammals living in urban areas in Florida. It occurs statewide. They form colonies from 50-20,000 bats in man-made structures like buildings and under bridges. Free-tails are a medium sized bat, about a half-ounce, with brownish gray fur.

Free-tails have a distinctive musky odor. Free-tailed bats are strong fast fliers with long narrow wings. They can fly at more than 25 mph and are known to fly to an altitude over 9,000 feet.

All bats are insect gluttons. A single small bat can gobble up to 1,200 mosquitoes a night, and often eats its weight in bugs in an evening.

Bats range in size from the Bumble Bee bat of Thailand, which is about the size of a thumbnail to the South Pacific’s “flying fox,” which has a 6-foot wingspan. There are three species of vampire bats of the 1,100; none live in the United States, although the states are home to 40 species of bats.

You’ve got to admit that listening to the quiet little squeak of bats beats the drone of mosquitoes any night.

 

Factoid

Although some bats migrate south for the winter months, others hibernate the way through the cold. The bat’s system can shut down so far that a bat will wake up in the spring even if it’s encased in ice.

Oh, and bats can live to more than 30 years of age, and females generally have one pup a year.

 

 

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