The mating habits of bats
Those who suffer from bat infestations will be pleased to know that unlike some pest species, bats do not rapidly reproduce. In fact, most species only have one baby per year, and only deliver a single litter. This is good news for those who are worried about exponential population growth in their property, as it means your house will not be overrun by hundreds of tiny bats. This is in part because bats are mammals, and give birth to live young. As a species that is regularly predated, and one that can fly, one baby is usually all the bat can handle. After all, it has to carry its young everywhere it goes, at least initially. Some species can have up to four young bats in a litter, but these are isolated incidents. This article details the general mating habits of bats.
Unlike many mammal species, bats do not mate for life. In fact, after going through the sexual processes, the male bat is usually never seen again and will mate with multiple females in a year. The duration of a bat’s pregnancy varies between species, but in general, bats with a diet based on insects will take around three months to produce their young, whereas bats with a more herbivorous diet, relying mainly on fruit, can incubate a baby for up to five months. Young bats are called ‘pups’.
Once a bat is born, it relies entirely on its mother, as it cannot fly and can barely move. However, it is born with a full set of 22 teeth, giving it the potential to be able to feed on all the same tough foods adults gnaw on. This means that the mother does not have to weaken the food for its young, saving valuable time.
Much like marsupials such as kangaroos, bat pups are stored in a small pouch attached to the mother. This is usually located around the tail area. However, they rapidly outgrow this pouch, and at the same time quickly become more curious and independent. Wings and fur develop just days after the bat is born, meaning that within the space of about a month, the bat is in a position to be able to travel around and feed itself to an extent. However, the baby at this time is still only around half of the size of its mother, meaning it still cannot sufficiently defend itself. A further month is spent learning from its mother, developing foraging and hunting skills, as well as bats’ famous skill of echolocation, in order to be able to survive in the future. After just two months, the pup is almost indistinguishable from its mother, and can now entirely defend itself. However, it still takes another year before the bat is in the position to begin a family of its own. At this time, the process begins all over again, with the bat either incubating if it is a female, or impregnating if it is a male.
Bat mating occurs throughout the summer months, meaning varying mating routines, which change from species to species, can be seen around this time. In the colder winter months, bats are not seen at all, as they hibernate in caves in rural areas, and homes and other buildings in urban areas. Bat mating usually occurs during the night, when bats are most active. You can tell if a male – it is always the male – is initiating a mating routine with a female as it will rub its head against that of the female.