Bats in Florida cover image.

Bats in Florida: Why Florida Has Great Species of Bats

Bats can be fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Although the way they look can frighten people, bats are harmless creatures that are crucial for the environment and helpful for people living in both rural and urban environments. Let’s explore the bats of America, starting with the species of bats in Florida and what makes them special. 

There are 13 native species of bats in Florida. There could be more as new species are discovered and created all the time. These bats are crucial for the people as they are a natural form of pest control, eating away thousands of insects a night! Bats also pollinate plants such as mango, guava, agave (which is used to make tequila), etc. Here are the 13 species of bats with brief information about them.

  • Big Brown bat
  • Brazilian Free-tailed bat
  • Eastern Red bat
  • Evening bat
  • Florida Bonneted bat
  • Gray bat
  • Hoary bat
  • Northern Yellow bat
  • Rafinesque’s big-eared bat
  • Seminole bat
  • Southeastern Myotis bat
  • Tricolored bat
  • Velvety Free-tailed bat

Brief information about these bats 

a big brown bat
Big Brown Bat. Image by Ryan Hodnett. Image: CC-BY-SA 4.0

Big Brown bat: With a name sounding like this bat is a leader of some gang, these bats are big, chocolaty, or golden brown and covered with a fuzz of fur over their bodies. Live in a colony of 60-80 individuals usually inside hollow cavities in trees. Eats insects such as beetles, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, so they act as great pest control. 

Brazilian Free-tailed bat: From Tampa to Tallahassee, Brazilian free-tailed bats are the most commonly found bats in Florida. They also have one of the largest colonies of bats, some reaching thousands of individuals. Their diet is mainly beetles, mosquitoes, and moths so again, great pest control for the people. 

They are called free-tailed bats because they are a tail that extends from the body. Fur color varies from dark brown to gray-brown. 

eastern red bats
Eastern Red Bats. Image: Josh Henderson. CC-BY-SA 2.0

Eastern Red bat: The name can be a bit deceiving since only the males have a brick-red color to their furs while the females have more of a pale-yellow or pale ochre. Both males and females have white color on their wrists and shoulders. These bats eat insects and live alone in trees.  

Evening bat
Evening Bat. Image: Abyssal. CC-BY-SA 4.0

Evening bat: Often confused with the Big Brown bat, the Evening bat is smaller in size and is commonly seen in Southern Florida. The Florida Keys is the only region where Evening bats are not found. Evening bats eat insects and live in small colonies. 

Florida Bonneted Bat
The Florida Bonneted Bat, largest bat in Florida. Image: Shalana Gray. CC-BY-SA 4

Florida Bonneted bat: Florida Bonneted bats are the largest bats found in Florida. These beautiful bats are also one of the three free-tailed bats in Florida and sadly, this species is on the endangered species list. These bats are also most likely to take up a free residence in your house, places where you don’t visit often. Eats insects like flies, beetles, etc.

Gray bat
Gray Bat. Image by Cody Jordan. CC-BY-SA 4.0

Gray bat: Another species of bats that is on the endangered list, these bats live inside dark caves and have a dark gray coat over their bodies. Gray bat, also called Gray Myotis, eats insects and lives in colonies.

Hoary Bat
The Hoary Bat. Image: US Geological Survey. Public Domain

Hoary bat: Another huge bat it is the second-largest bat in Florida. The term “hoary” means grayish-white and that is because of the white tips of the fur strands that make it give a grayish-white appearance. There’s also a hint of yellow or orange around their heads. These bats eat insects such as wasps and dragonflies and are solitary.

Northern Yellow bat: The yellow color of this species of bat is not the bright yellow you’d see on wasps and bees. This yellow is more like the pale mustard color one would see on leathery surfaces. These bats are large and commonly found in most of the Floridian regions. They prefer to live alone in hollow trees.

Rafinesque's Big-eared bat
Rafinesque’s Big-eared bat. Image: US department of Agriculture. CC-BY-SA 2.5

Rafinesque’s big-eared bat: These bats are one of the most distinct-looking bats in all of the US. As their name suggests, these bats have massive ears relative to their body size. Grayish fur on their back and white fur in the front (belly) is also another distinct visual feature. These bats also eat insects and are mostly found in the northern parts of Florida.

Seminole bat
Seminole bat. Image: US Department of Agriculture. Image: CC-BY-SA 2.0

Seminole bat: This might be weird, but to me, these bats look like they had a hairdo after looking at a picture of James Dean. These bats have tufts of white hair and a reddish-brown undercoat. They also eat insects such as beetles, moths, mosquitoes, etc, and are solitary. Found all over Florida except the Keys.

Southeastern Myotis Bat, one of the bat species found in Florida
Southeastern Myotis Bat. Image: Larisa-Bishop Boros. CC-BY-SA 4.0

Southeastern Myotis bat: Small in size, brown and gray, and insectivorous, eating mainly mosquitoes. These bats are cave-dwelling bats and live in colonies. But they are also found living in trees.

Tricolor bat of Florida
Tricolored Bat. Image: Larisa-Bishop Boros. CC-BY-SA 3.0

Tricolored bat: These bats have a lot of qualities to make them interesting. First, Tricolored bats are the smallest bats found in Florida. Second, their bodies have three colors. The arms are usually pink, the wings are black and the body ranges from brown to grayish-yellow.

Velvety Free-tailed bat: The third and final free-tailed bat found in Florida, these bats have the smoothest appearance and hence are called “velvety”. They are found in the Florida Key regions and are known to invade houses. They also eat insects. 

Bats are helpful?

For a state like Florida which has both tropical and subtropical climate, the place can get pretty wild when it comes to mosquitoes, insects, and other pesky pests. Mosquitoes are a huge problem in Florida as there are both native and invasive species here. Bats are natural pest control. 

All the bats in Florida are insectivorous and these bats are some of the most efficient insect consumers. A good-sized colony of hungry bats can eat up to 50,000 mosquitoes and other insects! Think how much they help is keeping dangerous diseases like malaria and dengue from humans!

Are Bats harmful?

Bats are usually defensive creatures. This means that they’ll fly away from anything other than insects. They try to avoid humans at all costs and that’s a good thing. They don’t want to come near you, you don’t want to go near them. It is like getting into a taxi and the driver does not want to talk. Win-win. 

But sometimes bats can be dangerous. Bats are mammals and mammals can transmit some diseases to other mammals like pets or humans. Rabies is one of the most common diseases that can be transmitted by a bat to your dog or cat or even you. Here are some things to do to keep yourself safe from bats:

  • Keep checking places in your house which could be a bat residence. 
  • Try and avoid getting a bat into your house. If it gets inside, try to get it out. 
  • If you get bitten by a bat, or if a pet does, seek medical assistance as soon as possible. 
  • If you wake up and find a bat in your room, it is safe to seek medical assistance. 
a bat sitting on a finger
Image by Gilles Sans Martin. License: CC-BY-SA 2.0

That was all about bats found in Florida and why they are so helpful. This concludes the article but if you want to read more about why bats are awesome, you can read this article:

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