Part of a category of bats known as the Megabat, the Fruit Bat is also known as the short-tailed bat, leaf-nosed bat, New World bat, and even a Flying Fox. Depending on the location of the Fruit Bat descriptions can be different. Most Fruit bats are a dark to reddish brown color with large ears, a short tail, and a leaf-like protrusion on the top of its nose. Fruit Bats are found in a huge range of sizes, anywhere from .2 ounces and smaller than two inches long to 16 inches in length and a couple pounds. The wingspan of a Fruit bat can be up to five feet. These bats have large eyes and excellent vision.
The Fruit bat has sharp teeth that allow it to penetrate the skins of fruit and long leaf-shaped tongues to unroll the fruit when eating it. The tongue is so long that while the bat is not feeding it wraps it around its ribcage.
Where does the Fruit Bat live, and what does it eat?
The range of the Fruit bat extends from southern Mexico to southern Brazil and Paraguay, as well as some islands in the Lesser Antilles. Preferred habitats are humid and tropical evergreen forests.
Roosts of the Fruit bat during the day are found in caves, mines, tunnels, in rocks and under leaves, in culverts, hollow trees, and buildings. They will leave at night just after sunset in search of food, visiting multiple feeding sites and sometimes travelling several miles. Fruit bats live in two kinds of groups. Groups of bats are found anywhere from 10-100 individuals. A harem is a small group of bats consisting of mostly adult females and pups and one adult male. A bachelor group consists of males and sub-adult females.
The Fruit bat feeds on more than 50 different types of fruit. Favorites are bananas, figs, plantains, and guavas. Fruit bats also eat a small amount of insects and pollen. These bats generally forage for food close to the ground.
The Fruit Bat’s Circle of Life
Mating season happens in the fall and fertilization in the spring for the Fruit bat. Gestation is approximately six months. The mother will give birth to one pup at a time in the late spring or early summer and carry it with her everywhere, even when feeding, for as long as six weeks until the young bats can fly on their own. Fruit bat control is best done at the end of summer or beginning of fall once all young bats have left the roost.
Fruit Bats and Humans
Many people think of bats as major carriers of rabies, but in reality less than one-half of one percent of all bats have rabies and even less actually transmit the disease to humans. Bats rarely come in contact with people (most bats will never come in contact with a human in their whole life) and therefore pose little threat.
Fruit bats do have a positive impact on humans. Because they feed primarily on fruit, they act as important pollinators. As they feed on and digest fruit they disperse seeds of flowers, trees, and shrubs. Up to 90% of rainforest growth can be attributed to the droppings (which contain fruit seeds) of Fruit bats. Even crops that are grown commercially like guava, peaches, bananas, vanilla, and avocados are fertilized and pollinated largely by Fruit bat droppings. The Fruit bat disperses anywhere from 350-2500 seeds per night, per individual.
Although the pollination of plants is a positive impact of the Fruit bat, this same quality can make the Fruit bat a serious pest, damaging fruit crops.
Fruit Bat Control
Professional control of the Fruit bat is done using a combination of exclusion methods and should be employed if bats have actually entered a structure. An increase in chirping noises around dusk when bats leave their roosts to hunt could be an indication of bats roosting in your building. Control of these bats using measures to move their roosts elsewhere has been most effective. Professional exclusion of bats is most often accomplished in a series of steps, and can take a significant amount of time, depending on where the bats are in their mating and birthing seasons:
Spend some time in the Crow’s nest: A professional will inspect and observe the structure for all possible entry points and roosting sites. Observations are performed at night to learn about the bat’s movements in and out of the structure.
Close up shop: Any cracks or crevices in a building will be sealed, preventing the bats from getting back in to the building. Some access points will be left open for bats to get out of the building (we don’t want to trap them in there, after all!), but most will be eliminated.
Bat Proof! Exclusion of bats is the best way to get rid of a roost. This is a simple process of eliminating ways for the bat to get in to the structure, but leaving one way for them to get out. The idea is to lure the bat out of the structure with no entry back in.
Cleanup: Once a bat infestation has been removed, it is very important to thoroughly clean and sanitize all areas where the bats were roosting. This is one main benefit of hiring a professional pest control company; they usually will do this as part of their bat removal service. Cleanup is important because the guano and urine of a bat tend to attract other unwanted pests like cockroaches, ticks, and mites.
DIY and Green Solutions for Fruit Bat Control
It is most reasonable to leave bat exclusion to the professionals, and most of us would rather do so anyway, but some steps in the exclusion process can be done fairly easily by anyone. Dealing one-on-one with a bat is not typically advisable, but if you must, protect any exposed skin with long sleeves, gloves, and a mask.
You’rrrrre Out!: Once you’ve identified how the bats are coming and going from the structure, give them a one-way escape with a bat cone or valve. This should be installed on an exit point you know to be used primarily by the roost. Once the roost numbers start dwindling, they’ll relocate somewhere else. Install bird netting on vertical openings to allow the bat to get out but not back in.
Clean house: The cleaning up part of bat eviction is harder than it sounds. This is one step that you might leave up to a professional. Who wants to spend a day in a hot attic cleaning up bat guano? Pest control companies!
The Fruit bat is considered a pest when it enters homes or other structures. Although it can be a good pollinator for plants, its roosting habits can cause damage to buildings and its guano and urine can pose a health hazard, as well as its potential to carry the dangerous disease rabies. Employ professional or do-it-yourself methods to keep Fruit bats from roosting in your home.