We’re celebrating Bat Week (Oct. 24-31, 2021) this week by focusing on some of our wildlife conservation and survey efforts to better understand bat populations in South Florida. Did you know that Florida has 13 resident species of bats? Of these 13 resident species, eight species of bats call South Florida home.
The spooky truth is that the benefits of bats are often overshadowed by myth and legends that contribute to fear and false assumptions about the world’s only flying mammal. Bats provide many ecological benefits, including:
- All natural pest control: All of the bat species found in South Florida are insectivorous, meaning their diet primarily consists of insects. A single bat can eat hundreds of insects in one night – helping to control the populations of disease-spreading mosquitoes.
- Pollination/seed-dispersal: Bats feed on the insects found in flowers. Some bats feed upon the nectar of certain night-blooming flowers. Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination or seed dispersal including bananas, mangoes and guava.
- Food source: Bats are part of the food web and are a food source for many raptors like owls and hawks.
In addition to flying, bats also use echolocation to find insects and navigate at night. Almost all bats echolocate at frequencies typically too high to be heard by the human ear. However, one of the few bat calls that can be heard by humans comes from one of the rarest bats in the world, found only in South Florida: the endangered Florida Bonneted Bat.
All bat species are protected by law in Florida to conserve their populations. To aid in this effort, SFWMD staff routinely conduct surveys of tree cavities and our human-made structures. SFWMD staff also use acoustical surveys in parts of the District that fall within the range of the endangered Florida Bonneted Bat. Special equipment is installed at key locations and left on-site for about two weeks at a time to record bat chitters and calls. That data is then visually represented in a sonogram.
Some species have taken to roosting in homes, sheds, and businesses. If you have bats near you, do not harm them or attempt to remove them yourself. For more information read the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's “Bats in Buildings” guide.
Happy Bat Week!