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B is for Bat: The Little Brown Bat


Bats have a lot of folk lore and legend attached to them and most of it is pure fiction. In truth, the bat is very beneficial and mostly harmless. They are marvelous at pest control and a major benefit to our agricultural industry. With these little bats a whole lot of our food supply would be destroyed by the insect population.


English: Note: this is indicated as a big brown bat if you search in the United States Fish and Wildlife Service website at http://images.fws.gov using the keywords “big brown bat”. In a FWS newsletter, however, this is described as a little brown bat.http://www.fws.gov/chesapeakebay/Newsletter/Summer05/Bats/Bugzapper.htm (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bats are fascinating creatures and really very beneficial animals but it seems a lot of folks are very afraid of them. That’s sad. Bats will not attack you or hurt you unless of course you try to hurt them or they sense they are in danger.

I’m not at all afraid of bats. Fact is I think they are cute, sort of like little mice with wings. I see them often around where I live and I find them fascinating to watch as they swoop and dive across the evening skies in search of dinner. I’m not afraid of mice either.

The fear of bats stems from folk lore and legend and though it is true bats may be carriers of diseases such as rabies, healthy bats are not the least bit dangerous to humans or our pets. It is fiction made to appear as truth. Bats are very beneficial to our ecology.

A few years ago, just before I retired I worked in one of our public schools as a custodian. The school was nearly 200 years old and located on a hill with a woodlot and nature path behind it. There were bats that lived in those woods and sometimes they would get inside the school and didn’t know how to find their way out again. There were a lot more of the adults in that school that were more afraid of the bats than the kids were and I’d be called up for “Bat Patrol” duty. Catch it, kill it, do whatever I had to do to get it out of there. It always made me chuckle a little because there was invariably a note of panic in the request for my assistance.

I’d catch the bat, usually by simply cornering it, scooping it up and putting it back outside where it could find its way home again. Sometimes it was a bit more challenging and so I’d just cut up a pear or an apple and place it in a metal wastebasket and set the basket in the hall or room where the bat was. It wouldn’t be long and the bat would smell the fruit and come to the wastebasket to dine. Once in the metal wastebasket, the bat couldn’t get out so I’d take it outside with its dinner and set it free at the edge of the woodlot. No problem.

The little brown bat is the most common bat in North America and is also known as the little brown myotis, the mouse eared bat. You will find it throughout the United States and much of Canada living in woodlots near fields, in orchards, in areas around ponds and marshes, in caves, beneath rock shelves, under your eaves, maybe in your attic, wherever there is a good supply of insects and other food. This little bat is very common in the northern portion of the United States and southern Canada with its range reaching as far north as Alaska, the Yukon and even in Iceland where they probably arrived while being stowaways on some ship. These little bats prefer the cooler climates but may be found as far south as the Gulf coast though in much fewer numbers. It is its cousin the Indiana bat, a slightly larger bat that will be found farther south.


You probably won’t see one flying around in the daytime though you may occasionally. Most of the time, during the heat of day, these little bats will be found roosting if you know where to look. You will see them most often in the very early morning hours and in evening as the sun goes down and they come out of hiding to feed. They swoop and dive through the air like aerial acrobats and are really fun to watch.

These little bats feed primarily on insects like mosquitoes, mayflies, gnats, moths, beetles and the like as well as those bugs and insects that destroy crops, but also enjoy a nice piece of fruit now and then. Bats are very beneficial in areas of agriculture in helping to keep those pesky insects from destroying the harvest.

When catching insect for dinner they literally swoop through the air and scoop up the insects with their wings that really aren’t true wings at all. What we see as wings is a layer of skin, a thin membrane that is attached to the body and the forelegs and functions much like a kite or a sailplane when in flight. They will also catch larger insects like moths with their mouth especially if they are swooping over water. It is really amazing to watch them.

Bats, in order to locate their food use a sort of sonar system called echolocation to locate their prey. Bats produce a very high frequency sound that echoes back off their prey and directs the bat to the dinner table. This same sonar like system that the bats posses also keeps them from bombarding into solid objects and helps them to land and to relocate where home is by identifying the sounds of other individuals and their own young by emitting high pulse, repetitive calls.

Despite how closely these little bats may swoop toward you the will not land on top of your head or on your neck and suck your blood out like a vampire. That is all fiction. Even the real vampire bat doesn’t attack humans. They think our blood is nasty and definitely not a tasty lunch for any bat. There is no reason to fear the bat. They are very beneficial to our ecology and once you put the legends and folk lore out of your mind you will find these amazing little creatures so much fun to watch and enjoy. Best of all, they are marvelous at pest control. We need them.

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Megabats and Microbats: B is for Bat: The Little Brown Bat
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