with their ears. Echolocation enables bats to capture small flying insects and to avoid obstacles in their path.
Bats drink water and are able to do so while in flight. As a bat skims over the surface of the water, it simply lowers its head and takes occasional gulps of water.
Because insects are not available as food during winter, bats in Missouri survive cold months by hibernating or migrating to warmer places. Hibernation is a state of rest in which heart and breathing rates are drastically reduced to help conserve energy. Bats reduce their body temperature from over 100 degrees F to the temperature of their hibernation site, usually 40-60 degrees F. The heart rate is slowed from over 1,000 beats per minute (bat in flight) to only one beat every four or five seconds.
A hibernating bat can survive on only a few grams of stored fat during its 5- to 6-month hibernation period. Bats usually lose one-fourth to one-half of their body weight during hibernation. Each time a bat is awakened, it may lose up to two months of stored fat reserves. Bats that are repeatedly disturbed are forced to emerge early from their roosts. If this emergence occurs before the insects have returned, the bats starve.
Just Hanging Around
When at rest, bats hang upside-down at their roost sites. This is because bats use gravity to gain enough speed to begin to fly. Some species of bats can't get airborne from a flat surface. By hanging upside down, they merely need to let go, pick up speed and start flapping their wings to begin to fly. This also allows them a quick escape if a predator approaches.
Most bats in Missouri breed in autumn, and the females store the male's sperm until the following spring, when fertilization takes place. The gestation period lasts only a few weeks and baby bats are born in May or June. Most female bats produce only one offspring (pup) per year, although some species give birth to three or four babies at a time. When pups are born, they are already one-half of their adult weight! The young are fed on milk until they are capable of foraging on their own. Baby bats grow rapidly, and most young are able to fly in two to five weeks.
Benefits of Bats
Bats are an important part of the natural world. Bats that feed on fruit are the primary means of