Bats get a bad reputation. Many people are scared of them. This may be because they come out at night, or because some species live in caves, or even because of their association with vampires. This reputation isn’t fair though, there are many reasons why bats are awesome! Not only do they help people but they’re important parts of ecosystems all over the world!

Bats are mammals, just like people! Bats give birth to one to two live young, called pups, per year. In Ontario, young are born in May or June and are cared for by the mother in maternity colonies (groups of mothers and pups). These colonies vary in size, there can be anywhere from 10 to thousands of bats! Young bats learn to fly within two to five weeks.

Five Fast Bat Facts

  1. There are approximately 1,300 species of bats in the world, and only about 4,000 species of mammals. This means that roughly one in four species of mammals is a bat!
  2. Bats are the only mammal that can fly, and they typically only fly at night.
  3. Bats are nocturnal, meaning they sleep during the day, and become active at night.
  4. If you see a bat in Ontario, it’s probably flying around eating insects. They can eat up to 600 insects an hour!
  5. There are two main types of bats in the world: Microbats and Megabats. All bats found in Ontario are microbats.

Microbats…

  • are smaller (that is why they’re called “micro” bats)
  • are insect eaters
  • use echolocation to find food. (This means they make high frequency sound waves which bounce off objects, and return back to their ears. With the returning sound they can tell the size, distance from, and shape of their surroundings.
  • have large ears. Their big ears help them with echolocation.

Megabats…

  • are larger (why they’re called “mega” bats).
  • are fruit eaters & pollinators.
  • use eyesight and smell helps them find food and fly without running into things.
  • have smaller ears than microbats but have great eyesight and smell.
Little brown bat Credit: Jordi Segers

Shhh, Bats are Sleeping

When bats aren’t looking for food at night, they’re likely sleeping. When bats sleep, it is called roosting. Bats roost in caves, trees, on rock out crops, under bridges, or in old mine shafts because these places have good protection from predators. Bats roost for about 20 hours a day! That’s over double the amount of time humans usually sleep.

One thing bats are known for is sleeping while hanging upside down. Bats hang onto branches or small ridges with their feet while they sleep. This actually makes it easier to take off when they wake. They just have to let go, open their wings, and soar! Hanging upside down also makes it easier for bats to hide from predators.

Bats Aren’t Scary, Extinction is…

Bats are amazing and important animals, but unfortunately some of Ontario’s bats are at risk. Four of Ontario’s eight species of bats are endangered. Bats suffer from use of pesticides and habitat loss, but a huge factor has been a condition called White-nose Syndrome(WNS). WNS is a fungus that has been infecting bats in Ontario since 2010. The fungus damages bat’s skin, causing them to wake up often and emerge early from hibernation in the winter. Unfortunately, infected bats often don’t survive.

There are some things we can all do to help bats. It is important to never disturb bats and stay away from caves or other places where they may be hibernating. You can also build bat houses which give bats a safe place to stay.

Learn more about Ontario’s bats here, and check out the downloadable links for bat house building instructions & tips!

Eastern Small Footed Bat

Little Brown Bat

Northern Myotis

Tri Coloured Bat