May 10, 2020
Happy Mother’s Day to some of the most wonderful moms in the natural world: BATS!
Bats tend to have a bad reputation due to being associated with vampires and disease, but these amazing little mammals deserve our respect, not only for the great services they provide our society, but for the tremendous undertaking of being a bat mom!
*[Links to sources used for this article can be found below]*
When bats give birth, their babies (pups) weigh between 25-30% of the weight of the mom [Reader, Dee Ann]. That would be like a human mom giving birth to a baby the size of a 4-year-old!
Bats are placental mammals just like us. When they give birth, they do so while hanging from a roost, so the baby has to dangle by its umbilical cord until the mom can reel it back up [Reader, Dee Ann].
Also since they’re mammals like us, bats nurse their young with milk. It takes a lot of energy to make milk for their babies, so the moms have to eat 110% of their body weight every night to do so [Reader, Dee Ann]. That would be like a human eating a month’s worth of food every single day! And since the bats that live in New York are insectivores, that translates to thousands of mosquitos every hour.
While the bat babies are young, they often need to ride along with their mom while she’s hunting. But lacking arms and hands, the babies need to hold on by their feet and by biting the nipple while mom flies [Reader, Dee Ann]. Since the babies are so big, in some species, females have wings with different shapes than males that allow them to generate more lift to fly [Seven Batty Supermom Facts!]
Once the babies are old enough to keep themselves warm, they wait at the roost for mom to come back from hunting. And if they live in a bat colony like many of the bats in North America, she may have to find her baby by either voice or odor, even when it is crammed in with 300 to 500 others per square foot in clusters covering many square feet [Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation].
Bats can live up to 41 years in the wild, still able to chase down flying insects for dinner, which is the equivalent of a human living to be 100 and still able to hear well and run obstacle courses [Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation]. Can your grandmother or great-grandmother do that?
Did you make your mom breakfast in bed? Approximately 70% of all tropical fruits eaten by humans rely on bats as primary pollinators or seed dispersers in the wild, ranging from bananas and mangoes to peaches, cashews and dates [Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation].
Getting chocolates to celebrate Mother’s Day? Bat pest control in Indonesia saves cocoa growers approximately $780 million annually [Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation].
Do you want to help the bats in your area? Consider hanging a bat house! This will even help the bat moms specifically, since bat boxes can provide a micro-climate that is warmer than other places to roost. The length of a bat’s pregnancy is dependent on temperature, so the colder they stay, the longer until they give birth. This means that the baby is born closer to the next winter, and has less time to eat enough to be ready. Only about 50% of bat pups survive their first winter [Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation]. Building a bat house will help those moms and babies survive!
You can find information on hanging bat houses, and places to purchase them here:
Please remember that just like any wildlife, observe bats from a respectful distance. Do not pick up or touch any bats, and if you have one trapped in your home, please use the following guidelines to get it to leave.
If you find an injured or sick bat, please contact your local wildlife rehabilitator. Listings can be found here:
You can also help protect bats by supporting the Wallkill Valley Land Trust. The lands we conserve also protect caves and trees that provide important bat habitat in our region.
Please donate today!
Happy Mother’s Day!
(1) “Resources.” Resources – Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation, www.merlintuttle.org/resources/.
(2) Reader, Dee Ann. “Life and Death on the Wing.” The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies.
6 Mar. 2020. The Carey Institute, Millbrook NY. Lecture.
(3) Seven Batty Supermom Facts!, www.batcon.org/resources/media-education/news-room/the-echo/1081-motherhood-in-bats.