A year in the life of a bat
Bats are very unusual and fascinating creatures, not just because they are the only mammals in the world that can fly but because of their peculiar habits and way of life. In certain times of the year, you may see a lot of bats and some other times these animals seem non-existent. This is very curious, so how do bats spend their year and what do they do each month? Let’s find out.
Bats hibernate throughout the month of January. During this time, their heartbeat and body metabolism is greatly reduced. They remain inactive and stay hidden in deep dark caves where their body temperature will remain constant between 0 to 40 o C. Slowing their breathing rate, temperature, and metabolic rate helps them survive the winter in a torpid state.
Bats continue to hibernate even in the month of February. This is their last month in hibernation and during this period most hibernating bats have only very little fat left in their system and will need to start getting ready to snap off the long slumber. In the last days of hibernation, bats may leave their nests at night in search of water and something to snack on.
As winter goes by and the weather becomes warmer, bats start to gradually emerge from their dark caves and resume their normal activities. They will start to form bat colonies and go out in groups to hunt for food every night. But if the weather gets a tad too cold, these animals may go back to hibernate for a few more days or weeks.
Now hibernation is officially over for bats and they are back to being active and going out every night to forage and hunt down insects. Bats will form colonies and live together in their roosting places as a big family, and they move out in groups every night to hunt and during the day they stay curled up in their nests sleeping and regaining their strength. Since they have been without food and water for so long, they will have to hunt and eat as much as they can every night. Bats are known to eat the equivalent of their body weight in one night.
During this period, bats have become very active and spend their nights hunting and eating voraciously. Now the bats are getting ready to bring forth their pups and the pregnant females in their midst begin to form maternity colonies. The bat maternity colonies split up from other non- pregnant bats in their colonies and go out in search of a conducive roosting place to birth their babies. The ideal roosting place for a bat maternity colony has to provide the right degree of warmth, and also be dark, dry, and away from loud sounds.
Baby bats are born. Bats give birth to live helpless pups who are entirely dependent on their mothers for survival. Bat pups feed on milk from their mothers’ bodies. At birth, they have 22 very tiny teeth and their wings are not developed, their bodies are covered in a very thin layer of gray fur and they measure less than 1 inch.
The bat maternity colony continues to nurse their young and provide for them. Every night, the mothers go out to hunt for food while the young ones stay back in the nest waiting to be fed when their mothers return. The baby bats grow wings and start learning to fly within a few weeks after they are born.
At six weeks old, baby bats stop feeding on milk and start hunting for food. Bat pups mature really fast and within two months after they are born, these helpless babies will be fully independent and able to hunt for food and take care of themselves. When the babies start taking care of themselves, the maternity season ends and the mother bats move to rejoin their original colonies.
The month of September is the love month for bats. Bats get into the mating mood and start scrambling to find mates. Bats mate mostly at night and the males initiate the process by nipping or biting the females on the neck to convey their intentions. During this period, male bats will mate with as many partners as they can find.
The bat mating season continues into the month of October. As they copulate, bats also build up fat stores in their bodies in preparation for the winter when they will have to go into hibernation. While searching for food, they also search for the best places to spend the winter months hibernating.
The month of November comes with cooler temperatures and bats start to retreat into their roosting places, spending more time sleeping and generally being inactive. They rely on the buildup of fat in their bodies to survive this period.
With winter in full swing, bats are officially in hibernation. They spend their entire days and nights holed up in their dark roosting places sleeping. They lower their body temperature, heartbeat, and metabolic rate to help them survive this period, and the fat storage in their bodies helps them stay alive.