Bats occupy an essential niche in the ecosystem. Taking over for swallows and swifts that feed during daylight hours, bats scour the night skies for flying insects. Bats use their hand-like wings to efficiently scoop bugs into their hungry mouths on the fly, which accounts for their seemingly erratic flight pattern.
The two most commonly seen on the Key Peninsula are little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) and big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus). These winged mammals rid neighborhoods of many bugs humans tend to dislike: mosquitoes, termites, beetles, moths and flies.
Contrary to wild tales told around campfires, bats don’t get caught in people’s hair nor do any of the 15 species of bats in Washington feed on blood, according to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
- Big brown bats are the most common bats found throughout America. Weighing approximately a half-ounce with bodies up to 5 inches long, these bats boast an impressive wingspan from 13 to 16 inches long. They can live up to 20 years.
- Little brown bats weigh less than half an ounce with wingspans from 8 to 11 inches. Nursing mothers of this species may consume more than their own body weight in insects daily. They typically have a life span of six or seven years but have been known to live up to 30 years.