Bats emerge from the Bracken Cave in Texas at dusk to feed on insects.
Bats emerge at night to feed in the area surrounding Bracken Cave. © Karine Aigner

Stories in Arizona

Amazing Facts About Bats

There are 1,100 species of bats worldwide, with 40 species in the United States alone. Though small in physical size, bats have a large footprint, making up one-quarter of the world's mammals.

Learn more about one of the natural world’s unsung heroes:

1. Bats can live more than 30 years and can fly at speeds of up to 60 mph. In fact, a 2016 paper published by University of Tennessee researchers found that the Mexican free-tailed bat could reach speeds up to 100 mph, making it by far the fastest mammal on earth.

2. Bats can find their food in total darkness. They locate insects by emitting inaudible high-pitched sounds, 10-20 beeps per second and listening to echoes.

Rafinesque’s big-eared bat in flight.
Rafinesque's big-eared bat Rafinesque's big-eared bat in Big Sandy Creek Unit of Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas. © John C. Abbott

3. Bats can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes an hour. Often, bats consume their body weight in insects every night, helping keep bug populations in check.

Tell Congress: Save Bat Habitats

Help Save Bats

4. More than half of the bat species in the United States are in severe decline or listed as endangered. In addition to loss of habitat, one of the most dire threat comes from white nose syndrome, a disease that has decimated bats in the U.S. and Canada. The Nature Conservancy collaborated on a breakthrough in 2015. Bats were treated with a common bacterium that seems to stop the growth of the white nose fungus, and were then successfully released back into the wild.

Help Save Bats Learn what The Nature Conservancy is doing to fight White Nose Syndrome.

5. Some bats hibernate in caves through the cold winter months and can survive freezing temperatures, even after being encased in ice.

6. Most bats have only one pup a year, making them extremely vulnerable to extinction. Bat mothers can find their babies among thousands or millions of other bats by their unique voices and scents.

A pallid bat with wings outstretched hanging on rock.
Pallid Bat The pallid bat feeds on ground-dwelling pray such as scorpions and centipedes. © The Nature Conservancy

7. Bat droppings, called guano, are one of the richest fertilizers. Bat guano was once a big business. Guano was Texas's largest mineral export before oil! Austin is a seasonal home to North America’s largest urban population of Mexican free-tailed bats, which live beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge. Approximately 1.5 million bats reside there!

8. The world’s largest bat is the "flying fox" that lives on islands in the South Pacific. It has a wingspan of up to 6 feet. The world’s smallest bat is the bumble bee bat of Thailand, which is smaller than a thumbnail and weighs less than a penny.

A group of flying foxes, the world’s largest bat, hanging from a tree branch.
Flying Foxes The world’s largest bat is the "flying fox" that lives on islands in the South Pacific. © John Skewes/Flickr Creative Commons

9. Pallid bats eat scorpions! In fact, the bats appear to be immune to scorpion stings from even the most venomous scorpion in North America, the Arizona bark scorpion. Up to 70% of a pallid bat’s diet can be scorpions at certain times of the year.

10. The Bracken Bat Cave in Texas is home to the world’s largest bat colony, with millions of Mexican free-tailed bats roosting there each year between March and October. Learn more about The Nature Conservancy's efforts to secure 1,521-acres to protect these vital species.

Bracken Bat Cave Bats emerging from the Bracken Bat Cave in Texas.