For Species Sunday this week, we are bringing you the Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus). These bats are endemic to southern Florida. This bat species has the smallest geographical distribution of any "New World" bat and is considered one of the most critically endangered mammal species in North America.
These bats are the largest bat species native to Florida reaching a length of 6.5 inches and sporting a 20 inch wingspan. These impressive sizes gained them the nickname "Florida mastiff bats." The mastiff bat varies in color with fur ranging from black or brown to gray or cinnamon, with most specimens having a white band that goes across their abdomens. These bats got the name of bonneted bat because of their large, forward facing ears, giving them a similar appearance to that of a bonnet. These bats use echolocation and males have a cool gular-thoracic gland that helps mark females or a roosting site. These bats live a non-migratory lifestyle and unlike other temperate bat species, the bonneted bat doesn’t go through a hibernation cycle.
All of the 13 native species of Floridian bats eat insects, making them insectivores. The Florida bonneted bat’s diet consists of beetles, flies, and true bugs. All bat species are immensely important to the ecosystem and even our economy. It is estimated that 1 bat can eat between 4,500 - 8,000 insects every night. With the largest colony in Florida containing around 300,000 individuals, that's a lot of insects in every night. Their feeding practices help maintain pest populations around agricultural land throughout all of North America. The nontoxic pest control service that bats provide for us by just existing, is valued at around $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year, according to a recent scientific paper.
These bonneted bats were once common along the South Eastern coast. With observations of their populations in the 1960s and 70s on the decline, it was believed to be extinct in 1980. These bats have since been added to the Endangered Species Act in 2013. These little bats have a lot of threats to their populations because of their small population size and restricted range of just ten counties within the state. These threats include: present and future degradation of habitat, low fecundity (the natural capability to produce offspring), relative isolation, and rising sea-level. Even predicted changes in weather can affect these bats, because of their small population size.
If you would like to help these amazing creatures, consider installing bat boxes. These boxes will help boost bat populations and will take care of insect pests like mosquitoes. If you have property near a body of water it is vital you start adding bat boxes today, as it takes 2-3 years for bats to find them and relocate into them. It is estimated that by 2060, ⅓ of Florida’s remaining land mass will be used for growing population. We will have to learn how to live together with these bats as their natural habitats will be long gone by then.