The Lesser Long-Nosed Bat: Long Distance Pollinators

The lesser long-nosed bat is a moderately-sized North American bat with an impressive travel history.

When it decides it’s time to migrate, this species covers a lot of miles. During the warm summer months, they like to hang out in the south eastern section of Arizona, southern California, and most of New Mexico, where they enjoy sipping all the nectar local cacti provides. As the days grow shorter, they head south, winging their way into Mexico. They’ve been observed in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Some banded members of the species have traveled as far as one thousand miles each during a single migratory season.

 

Their preferred habitat is grasslands and some scrub forests. They’re able to thrive on a minimal amount of water and do well in temperatures that reach as high as 106 °F. but will die if they’re exposed to anything much below 50°F. Since they migrate, the lesser long-nosed bat doesn’t hibernate and must find a way to feed year-round. During the day, the bats like to roost in caves and abandoned mines where they can keep cool.

 

The lesser long-nosed bat’s distinguishing features include a ten-inch wingspan, a small “noseleaf” that protrudes from bridge of their nose, and a three-inch-long body. The fur ranges from a yellowish-brown color to a light brownish-gray mixture.

 

One of their most fascinating features is one you won’t see when you look at the bat: its tongue, which happens to be the same length as its body. The tongue is covered in both long ridges and bristle-like papillae, both of which help the bat draw nectar from plants. Scientists also feel that it’s possible that the bat’s rough tongue also gets used to scrape plaque from the animal’s teeth, decreasing the risk of developing periodontal disease.

 

The wings of the lesser long-nosed bat are uniquely suited for its lifestyle. They’re designed in such a way that the bat can fly long distances easily without burning a great deal of energy; however, to make the long trips, the bat sacrificed the incredible agility and speed that insect-feeding bats enjoy.

 

The exact type of nectar the lesser long-nosed bat consumes depends on the time of year it is and where the bat happens to be located. They prefer dining on blooming cactus but will visit other types of plants as the need arises. They frequently feed on the nectar from:

 

·         Organ Pipe Cactus

·         Century Plants

·         Agaves

·         Saguaro

 

While the bat feeds on the plant’s nectar, it aids in the plant’s pollination. In the case of most species of night-blooming cactus, the bats are the only reliable source of natural pollination. If the lesser long-nosed bat and other nectar-feeding desert bats go extinct, the night-blooming cacti would quickly follow. Bat friendly tequila is currently being sold in an effort to keep the lesser long-nosed bat population strong.

 

When left to its own devices, a healthy lesser long-nosed bat can live approximately twelve years. They usually give birth during May and June following a six-month gestation period. Mothers care for their pups for approximately eight weeks.

-Excerpt from 60 Beautiful Bat Facts

 

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