The Little Brown Bat

Prior to white-nose syndrome making its way to North America, the little brown bat populated just about the entire continent. The only places it didn’t live was Mexico, Texas, and Florida. New Hampshire was the state that had the highest population of little brown bats who like to live and hunt in swampy, humid areas.

 They’re Bug Eating Machines!

Even though the little brown bat weighs a mere half ounce, it plays a significant role in the ecosystem. A single little brown bat consumes half of its body weight every single night, and while a quarter-ounce worth of bugs might not seem like much to you, anyone who lives in swampy areas will tell you they’ve noticed a huge increase in the insect population since WNS started decimating little brown bat colonies. In a single hour, a little brown bat can eat six hundred flying insects.

You do not want to get into an eating contest with a little brown bat. Once it catches a bug, it doesn’t waste any time eating it; it goes straight into its mouth. While it chews, its jaw moves a complete seven cycles a second. The food doesn’t stay in its system long. In less than an hour, it exits the alimentary canal. When it closes in on the insect it wants to turn into dinner, the little brown bat closes in on the bug it wants to turn into dinner, it uses a variety of methods for capturing the insect. Sometimes it uses its tail as a net, sometimes it bats the bug with its wing and shoves it into its tail membrane and than sweeps its tail membrane forward, lifting the insect to its mouth. At other times, it’ll just use its teeth and pluck the unsuspecting bug right out of the night sky.

Once a little brown bat spots an insect, the bug doesn’t stand much of a chance. The bat’s wings are a thing of beauty and allows the animal to perform complicated maneuvers the bug can’t hope to duplicate. Beating their wings as fast as fifteen strokes a second, the species can attain a flying speed of up to 21mph.

The bats drink while in flight. Occasionally, a little brown bat will be knocked into the water. When this happens, it uses its powerful wings to swim and can travel several hundred feet before wearing out.

If the population continues to decline, it will become difficult to control the insect growth in the swampy areas the little brown bat prefers. As the insect populations, especially mosquitos, increases, so does the risk of the humans who call those areas home contracting mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Malaria, West Nile Virus, Yellow Fever, Zika Virus, and more.

Home Sweet Home

Its diminutive size makes it impossible for the little brown bat to handle any type of freezing weather, which is why it hibernates for up to six months. Despite the inability to handle chilly conditions, little brown bats have been spotted as far north as Alaska.

Little brown bats enjoy active social lives; they’re frequently found living in colonies that can number in the hundreds of thousands, which is how WNS managed to destroy such a high number of bats in a brief period of time. The bats show no sign of being territorial or aggressive towards one another. For roosting, they prefer bat houses, wood piles, buildings, trees, and even rock crevices. It’s not unusual for a little brown bat to fly several hundred miles in search of a hibernaculum.

 They’re a Promiscuous Bunch

Little brown bats have pretty specific criteria that they use when searching for a good day roost. They prefer roosts that open to the southwest, which makes it easy for them to keep their bodies in tune with the sun. The roost must be dry, dark, and warm. Females join forces and form maternity colonies and generally return to the same colony year after year.

One of the interesting things about the little brown bat is how they mate. It appears that they have two mating phases, which have been dubbed the active phase and the passive phase. The mating appears to be random and the girls like to take multiple partners. Researchers have observed that the nasal glands do expand during the autumn mating season, and that some bats will do some limited singing and honking.

The mating season takes place during the autumn before the weather forces the bats into their hibernacula.

-Excerpt from 60 Beautiful Bat Facts


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