Gearing up for Halloween – going batty
I have been thinking about symbols for Halloween and one of my favorites is the bat. I found a skeleton of a bat at the local nature museum and then began to investigate the species in Virginia. I was astonished to learn that there are 17 different types of bats living here.
Don’t mess with me, I am armed with the bat facts.
- Bats are the only mammal that can truly fly.
- Virginia has 17 of the more than 1,000 bat species worldwide.
- Three of the bat species in Virginia are federal endangered species (Gray Bat, Indiana Bat, and Virginia Big-eared Bat); the Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat, also known as the Eastern Big-eared Bat, is a state threatened and endangered species.
- The bats in Virginia are divided into two categories: cave bats and tree bats. Cave bats hibernate in caves, while tree bats hibernate in leaf clusters, under decaying logs, in hollow trees, or sometimes in abandoned mines or old buildings.
- Virginia's cave bats include:
- Gray Bat
- Small-footed Bat
- Little Brown Bat
- Northern Long-eared Bat
- Indiana Bat
- Eastern Pipistrelle
- Big Brown Bat
- Virginia Big-eared Bat
- Virginia's tree bats include:
- Southeastern Myotis
- Silver-haired Bat
- Eastern Red Bat
- Hoary Bat
- Northern Yellow Bat
- Seminole Bat
- Evening Bat
- Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat
- There has also been an occurrence of the Brazilian Free-tailed bat in southeastern Virginia.
- The Big Brown Bat and the Little Brown Bat are the species more likely observed by Virginians.
- The Virginia Big-eared Bat is the state bat of the Commonwealth.
- Cave bats generally give birth to only one "pup" per year, and tree bats generally give birth to two or more "pups" per year.
- Bats in Virginia eat insects, and they are valuable in controlling mosquito populations. Some bats can consume up to 3,000 insects in one night.
- Bats are true hibernators that undergo physiological and metabolic shutdown during the winter. A hibernating bat's heartbeat drops from 400 beats per minute to 25 beats per minute.
- Bats may hibernate for as long as 83 days, slowly metabolizing the body fat stored during the fall. Studies have shown that each time a little brown bat is disturbed during hibernation it expends the fat reserves necessary to hibernate 67 days.
- Bat hibernation caves are known as hibernacula.
- Another remarkable quality found in bats is their ability to emit high frequency sounds, or ultrasound, similar to sonar, to detect and to catch insect prey, to avoid obstacles, and to communicate.
- Bats in Virginia are nocturnal.
- Bats generally mate in the fall and winter but the females' bodies delay fertilization until spring. Births typically occur from May through July. Young bats can fly at three weeks and weaning typically occurs in July and August.
- Bats can live more than 10 years and some species can live up to 30 years.
- Owls, hawks, raccoons, skunks and other animals prey on bats.
- Bats, like any mammals, can carry rabies, but more rabies cases in Virginia are attributed to raccoons, foxes, and feral cats (VDH Rabies Statistics).”