It’s bat maternity season! What does that mean? This is the time of year when expecting mother bats give birth to their “pups” (aka, baby bats). Female bats live together in colonies at a roost and spend their day resting and raising their pups. Bats typically have only 1 pup each year; and since pups can’t fly for several months, this is an important time to protect bat roosts.
From April 15th – August 15th each year, it is illegal to destroy bat roosts or block bats from returning to their roost. If roost entrances are blocked, the mothers will fly out to forage, but will not be able to return to their pups. Since the pups cannot fly and remain inside, they will die of starvation.
Bats use many places as roosts, including human-made ‘bat houses’, trees, caves, buildings, and bridges. A colony is a group of bats who live together; groups can be composed of just a few bats, hundreds, or even thousands. Bat colonies can move each season or change in size, so it can be sometimes be challenging to monitor their populations. Scientists conduct emergence counts to determine if a bat colony is using a roost and estimate how many bats there are.
Recently, the Florida Bat Working Group (FLBWG) Monitoring Committee created the new ‘Bat App’ as a tool for citizen scientist surveyors and others to help monitor bats in Florida. If you have a bat roost near you home (in a bat house, tree, culvert, building, etc), you can help by conducting an emergence count and submitting the roost description on the FLBWG Bat App. Maternity season is an especially useful time to monitor bat roosts.
For more information about the Bat App or the Florida Bat Working Group, visit the citizen science page of the Florida Bat Working Group website. You can also reach out to Shelly Johnson with questions.