There are approximately fourteen (14) species of bats in Florida. They are mouse-sized with wings and are usually in shades of brown. They are most common near water and many species roost in dark areas in buildings, attics, behind shutters, caves and other hiding places during the day and they eat insects. Bats have one (1) litter per year in the Spring. They can have between one (1) to four (4) offspring per litter, depending on species. They are active at night and are frequently seen flying over water or around street lights as they try to catch flying insects. Bats are often feared as being carriers of rabies although they can be infected with the rabies virus like any other animals like dogs, cats, raccoons, and skunks; bats infected with rabies are not known to become generally enraged and attack people and other animals. Once infected with the rabies virus, bats usually become paralyzed and die quietly. Histoplasmosis is another disease associated with bats. It is an infectious disease caught by inhaling the spores of the histoplasma capsulatum fungus from the bat guano. Although the disease primarily affects the lungs, symptoms vary greatly. There have been situations where other organs have been affected which can be fatal if left untreated.
During the day, bats find rest in dark secluded roosts such as hollow trees, caves, under bridges, crevices, and the attics of buildings. During the winter, there are fewer insects and some bats migrate while others hibernate in caves, trees, or buildings. Most bats in Florida enter Torpor which is a form of deep sleep during the day and on winter nights when it is too cold for their insect food to fly. Bats in Florida can live for about ten (10) to twelve (12 ) years. They are creatures of habit and will frequent the same roost year after year even though they may use it seasonally.
Confirming the presence of bats in your home or building is often confirmed by seeing bats emerge from various openings at dusk. One might be able to hear squeaking and rustling noises coming from ceilings and walls and may indicate a bat colony is present. An infestation can also be seen by the bats leaving behind guano which can be found outside of the home and building. If you believe that you may have bats roosting in your attic, eve or chimney spaces, now is the time to act. It is illegal to harm or kill bats in Florida, but they can be legally excluded from a building or structure in an effective and safe manner that protect bats and people. Any bat exclusion of bat colonies must be done between August 15 through April 15.
In Florida, bat exclusions are illegal during their maternity season from April 16 through August 14. It is during this time that bats gather to give birth and raise their young. The season lasts until the young bats are able to fly and fend for themselves. Any bat exclusion work done during the maternity season would require special permitting from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Florida is home to thirteen (13) resident bat species, including threatened species such as the Florida bonneted bat. Since some bat species may roost in artificial structures, including buildings and houses, guidelines that protect bats have been developed allowing for the legal exclusion of bats outside of the maternity season. Bat exclusions are illegal during the maternity season, from April 16 through August 14, in order to prevent young bats that cannot yet fly from being trapped inside structures and dying.Exclusion guidelines on how to remove bats from buildings can be found at MyFWC.com/Bats. Materials and methods to exclude bats can affect the success of that process. For more information on how to conduct a bat exclusion, watch this YouTube video: How to Get Bats Out of a Building. Further details on how to conduct a legal bat exclusion can be found at Bat Conservation International.
Bats are beneficial to people and are an important part of the ecosystem. The state’s native bats help keep insect populations under control, with the average bat eating hundreds of insects a night. In addition to the benefit of keeping mosquitoes at bay for residents enjoying the outdoors, the dollar value of insect suppression by bats to U.S. agriculture has been estimated to be in the billions.
Residents can help bats thrive in Florida by preserving natural roost sites, including trees with cavities, peeling bark and dead palm fronds; by putting up a bat house; and reporting unusual bat behavior to MyFWC.com/BatMortality.