Michigan is home to nine different bat species, nearly one-fifth of the total number of species in all of North America. There are many reasons to appreciate bats, from the essential pollination and pest control services that they provide, to the fact that they are the ONLY flying mammal on earth. During Bat Week, October 24-31, 2022, you can help Michigan bats by dispelling some common misconceptions about bats.
- Common Misconceptions:
- “Blind as a Bat” – although most bats have small eyes, they can actually see just fine. And with the aid of echolocation, they are able to find fast-moving insect targets at night!
- Disease carriers – Not only does the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention note that fewer than 6 percent of bats tested were carriers of rabies, the fungal disease known as white-nose syndrome, which is the leading cause of population decline among many North American bats, is much more likely to be transmitted to bats from human interference with their habitat.
- They ‘vant’ to suck your blood – only one species of bat (found in Mexico and South and Central America) has been known to bite humans, rarely, as they primarily feed on cattle.
Northern Long-eared Bat
Learn more about the critical role that bats play in the ecosystem, and share with your friends and family all the ways that bats are beneficial, by learning more about some of Michigan’s bat species below, and at batweek.org!
The northern long-eared bat is a federally threatened bat with a wide range. Found in 37 states in the U.S., these bats live in boreal forests for summer foraging and roosting, and caves for hibernation.
Although there are many threats to the species including habitat loss due to logging, the predominant threat by far is white-nose syndrome. According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), if this disease had not emerged, it is unlikely the northern long-eared bat would be experiencing such a dramatic population decline. Numbers of northern long-eared bats, gathered from hibernacula counts, have declined by 97 to 100% across the species’ range. The USFWS is currently considering reclassifying these bats as endangered because of the threat of white-nose syndrome. Learn more about this classification process by clicking the link here.
Michigan’s eastern pipistrelle, also known as the tricolored bat, is so named for the multi-colored individual hairs of its fur, tricolored bats appear uniquely yellow-orange in contrast to other more brown-looking bats. Their “fluttery” flight pattern means that these small bats can be easily mistaken for large moths, according to the University of Michigan.
However, as one of the state’s primarily cave-hibernating species of bat, the tricolored bat has experienced significant population decline over the last 15 years, due primarily to the spread of white-nose syndrome. The fungal disease interrupts the bats hibernation cycle, causing them to become active and deplete their energy before there are available food sources in the spring. Once common across its range, estimates suggest that these bats have seen up to a 90% decrease in population since white-nose syndrome was first detected in 2006. Because of this, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed to list the tricolored bat as endangered under protection of the Endangered Species Act. Learn more about the process for classification by clicking this link.