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Bats in the Arrowhead
Monitoring Sounds and Mist-Netting

Bat-tastic Facts

Why are some people afraid of bats?

A lot of times, people are afraid of the dark or things they don’t understand. Bats come out at night, fly around, and are not usually considered pretty. In the past, people made observations about bats that were not entirely true, and formed opinions of bats as a “bad” animal. Today, scientific research is helping us learn true facts about bats. Bats are not a “bad” animal, but are actually very important and helpful animals. Download an activity about bat myths and facts.

Are bats dangerous?

If you don’t bother a bat, it won’t bother you. Bats do not attack humans or animals, but a bat will defend itself if you corner it or harass it. If you see a bat acting strangely (laying or crawling on the ground) don’t touch it. If you are bitten by a bat, tell an adult, wash the bite, and see a doctor. 99.95% of bats don’t carry rabies (a sickness) but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Are bats vampires?

Mostly, NO. Of over 1,000 bat species, only three species bite other animals for blood, sort of like mosquitoes. These species do not live in or near Minnesota. Most bats, including all Minnesota bat species, eat insects. Other bats eat fruit, nectar and leaves.

Are bats blind?

NO. Bats are not blind. Bats can see just like other animals. However, some bats do not need to use sight as much as some of their other senses.

How do bats move in the dark?

Bats, like humans, do not see well in the dark. So bats have very sensitive hearing and a special system called echolocation. A bat uses its mouth to make clicking sounds that travel through the air and bounce off objects in front of it. The echo returns to the bat’s large ears, and by the way the echo sounds, the bat can locate things to avoid like trees and predators, and find food like flying insects. Learn more about echolocation. Watch a music video about echolocation. Download an echolocation activity.

How are bats beneficial to the environment and to people?

Bats are helpful in many ways! In Minnesota, bats eat mosquitoes that give humans itchy bites and diseases. Bats also eat other insects, like moths, that eat human food crops like corn. Bats are also important in the rest of the world. They are pollinators and seed dispersers, which are necessary to grow crops like bananas, peaches, mangoes, cucumbers, pickles, and many others. Bats are also an important member of cave ecosystems. Download an activity on bat benefits.

How can I help protect bats?

There are many activities you can do to help protect bats. Build a bat house (get instructions), make  a school project, clean up a habitat, and let your political representative know you support bat conservation.

How do scientists study bats?

Scientists use several ways to identify bats, find where they are living, and estimate how many bats are living in an area. Find out more about bat research.

Are bats mice that can fly?

NO. Bats are not mice or rodents. That is an old misunderstanding that is still present in some languages (for example, the French word for bat is “chauve-souris,” which means “bald mouse.”) Bats are actually in their own scientific order, Chiroptera, which means “hand wing.” That is because bats have a wing that looks a lot like a human hand. In fact, bats are more closely related to humans than they are to mice!

What kind of animal is a bat?

A bat is a mammal. A mammal is an animal that has hair and gives birth to live young instead of laying eggs. Bats are special in that they are the only mammal that can truly fly (unlike flying squirrels, which glide).

What specialized body parts do bats have?

Bats have unique wings that are made of skin stretched between long fingers and between the arm and the body. Large ears help bats hear at a different frequency than humans, which they use for echolocation. Bats don’t use muscles to hold when hanging upside down, their toes lock onto the ceiling by gravity. Download an activity about bat bodies.

How large are bats?

Bats are usually very small. Most Minnesota bats are small enough to fit on an adult's finger and can weigh less than a penny. The smallest bat in the world is the bumblebee bat. The largest bat in the world is the Malaysian fruit bat, which can weigh up to 3.5 pounds.

How many kinds of bats are there?

There are over 1,000 species of bats around the world. Bats have the second most species of any order of mammal! 242 bat species live in the United States. Seven bat species live in Minnesota: big brown bat, little brown bat, northern myotis, tri-colored bat, silver-haired bat, hoary bat, and eastern red bat. Meet Minnesota’s seven bat species.

What do Minnesota bats eat?

Minnesota bats eat insects. One bat can eat 600 mosquitoes in one night! So if you don’t like mosquitoes, you should love bats!

Where do bats live in Minnesota?

Bats in Minnesota live in trees, caves, and abandoned mines. Learn more about where bats live along the North Shore.

What is a group of bats called?

A colony.

What is a baby bat called?

A pup.

What do bats do in winter?

Bats avoid cold winters in two ways. Many bat species which spend the summer here migrate south. Migration is a long trip animals take every season, and often return to the same places year after year. Minnesota bats can travel as far south as Texas and Mexico!

The bats that stay in Minnesota hibernate. Hibernation is a long, deep sleep in which an animal keeps important body functions like heart beat, breathing and body temperature at a low rate. Slowing down body functions and sleeping conserves energy when food is hard to find. Bats wake up every few weeks to urinate and drink water, but they do not eat anything. Download an activity about a year in a bat’s life.

What should I do if I find a bat cave?

First of all, it is important to never enter any cave on your own without an experienced adult. It is important to not enter bat caves. Entering a cave in winter can wake up bats who are hibernating. Waking up uses a lot of energy, so if a bat is woken up often enough it will starve to death before spring. Entering a bat cave could also spread White Nose Syndrome.

What is White Nose Syndrome?

White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a disease that is caused by a fungus from Germany. The fungus causes fuzzy white growth on a bat’s nose and body, and eventually kills the bat. When a colony becomes sick, almost all of the bats die. WNS is spreading quickly across the eastern United States and Canada. WNS has not been found in Minnesota yet, but it is present in surrounding states and there is concern that it will soon attack our bats. Learn more about White Nose Syndrome.

What should I do when I see a bat?

Most importantly, NEVER, NEVER TOUCH A BAT. I does not matter if the bat is healthy, sick, injured or dead – do not touch the bat! Feel free to enjoy quietly watch healthy, active bats fly around and hunt for insects without interacting with them. If you find a sick, injured, or dead bat, tell an adult and ask them to report it to the Minnesota DNR at this phone number: 888-345-1730 or at their website.

What should I do if a bat is living in my house?

Often bats will live in a human house if they think it’s a good spot. They especially like attics and the space right underneath the roof. Bats do not chew holes in walls like rodents, but they are still messy and noisy. There are several simple ways you can encourage bats to move out of your house without hurting them: place speakers playing static in the attic (bats don’t like noisy neighbors either); build a bat house on your property to keep them around as free insect pest control; call a professional to remove the bats safely and seal up their entrances to the house. Find out more about living with bats.

Questions or Comments? Send them to bats@nrri.umn.edu

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