By Ali Dunstan

With all that is going on in the world, there has been a resurgent of curiosity about one species in particular: bats.

These incredible and important animals play a vital role in our ecosystem and worldwide. Bats can be found on six continents and they are widely spread throughout the state of Florida. We are home to 13 permanent resident species of bats with seven other occasional or accidental species that have been recorded in the state.

Bats are typically nonaggressive and less than 1 percent have been found to carry rabies.
The only true flying mammal, bats are not rodents and have forelimbs that have been adapted as wings, allowing them to fly.

Evening bats are one of the most common species to observe in the Tampa Bay area. They are easily identified by their dark brown fur that is often accented with a reddish or copper tint. They have short, dark ears and a black muzzle resembling that of a dog.

On average, they are about 2-3 inches in length with a wingspan around 11 inches. Bats are insectivores, which means that their diet consists almost entirely of bugs. Colonies of bats can consume thousands of mosquitos every night. The evening bat prefers moths, beetles and mosquitos.

The evening bat is a colonial species and can roost in groups of up to 80 bats per colony. Their preferred places to roost are in caves, under bridges, within dead trees, in abandoned buildings and in man-made structures. Often, they will choose to roost in the attics of residential homes.

Bats are protected year-round in the state of Florida and it is illegal to harm or kill them. Because they only give birth once a year, their maternity season, which falls between April 15- August 15, also allows them further protections. During this time, bats may not be excluded without a permit. Bats not only provide natural pest control services, they are also important pollinators.

The conservation of bats is imperative for the survival of their species. Threats such as habitat loss and the spread of white-nose syndrome (a fungal infection) are the greatest risks that these animals face. We can protect bats by never disrupting or handling wildlife, installing bat houses and preserving their natural environments.

If you have further bat questions, the Southwest Regional FWC can be reached at 863-648-3200. Quality bat houses can be found at habitatforbats.org.