Meet the Critters! The Big Brown Bat

The big brown bat uses those enormous ears to locate its insect prey.

Meet the big brown bat!  We’ve got three of these little guys here at the KWEC, and they’re some of our favorite critters.  Myths about bats are everywhere, so we’ll try to clear some of those up this week!

Myth #1: Bats are blind.  Not true!  All bat species can see.  However, since they hunt at night, they have evolved to use their hearing rather than their sight.

Myth #2:  Bats will try to fly into your hair/Bats will try to attack humans.  Not true!  Bats don’t want to get close to such a big predator as a human.  If one has swooped near you, it was probably trying to nab a tasty insect.

Myth #3:  Bats drink blood.  Most bat species are insectivores, performing a valuable service to people by getting rid of literally tons of bugs each night.  Only three of the more than 1200 bat species drink blood.  The vampire bats, native to Mexico and South America, drink the blood of cows and other livestock.

Our two young bats hang out together.

Now that we’ve cleared up some myths, let’s move on to some cool facts!

The big brown bat is a common nighttime predator here in Kansas.  If you’ve ever watched insects swarming under a light pole, you’ve probably seen a bat swooping through to grab a snack.  Big brown bats are extremely quick; they can reach speeds of up to 40 mph!  Bats hunt using echolocation:  they squeak, and then use their incredible hearing to catch the echo of the squeak.  From the time it takes for the squeak to return and the changes in the sound, bats can form an incredibly precise map of their surroundings.

Big brown bats are voracious eaters, chowing down on beetles, moths, flies, wasps, and flying ants – all of which they catch in flight.  A single big brown bat can eat a thousand mosquitos in one night!  Talk about pest control!

The average big brown bat reaches about 5 inches in body length, with a 12-inch wingspan.  They weigh just over half an ounce.  That may not seem very large, but when compared to other Kansas bat species, it’s pretty darn big.  Most other bat species in Kansas are only a third of the size of the big brown bat.

Big brown bats have a few different living arrangements.  When raising their young, female bats will form colonies of up to 700 individuals.  During this time, the male bats roost on their own.  Both genders group up at the end of summer in order to prepare for their hibernation.  In the wild, a big brown bat can live up to 20 years!

One of our young bats showing off his leathery wings and sharp little teeth!

About Jean Aycock

Jean Aycock is an Educator at Ft. Hays State University’s Kansas Wetlands Education Center (KWEC) at Cheyenne Bottoms. Jean received a Bachelor of Science degree in Forestry - Wildlife Management from Mississippi State University, and a Master of Science degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Arkansas-Monticello, studying shorebird migration. Jean is a native of southeast Missouri, and an avid birder, hiker, and crafter.

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