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Hoary bats are the most widespread of all bats in the United States. these bats are thought to occur in all 50 states. They range from the tree limit in Canada down to at least Guatemala in Central America, and throughout South America. They are the only bats found in Hawaii. There are records of migrant hoary bats on Southampton Island off of Northern Canada, and from Iceland, Bermuda, and the Orkney Islands off Scotland.
They are rare in most of the eastern United States and northern Rockies and common in the Pacific Northwest and prairie states. They are abundant in California, Arizona, and New Mexico, where they winter. They winter in southern California, southeastern United States, Mexico, and Guatemala, but have also been found in Michigan, New York and Connecticut during December and in Indiana during January. This suggests that some may winter farther north than was previously expected.
Hoary bats is migratory and moves northward in spring and southward in winter. Like its relative the red bat, with which it frequently associates, the hoary bat is more or less solitary and frequents wooded areas where it roosts in the open by hanging from a branch or twig. It is a strong flier, and in association with other bats it is readily recognized by its large size and swift, erratic flight. This bat usually emerges rather late in the evening, but during migration it frequently is observed in daylight hours.
The chief food is moths, although they are known to also eat beetles, flies, grasshoppers, termites, dragonflies, and wasps. Apparently, the hoary bat feeds by approaching a flying moth from the rear, engulfing the abdomen-thorax, and then biting down, allowing the sheared head and wings to drop to the ground.
Hoary bats are solitary. They roost 3 to 5 m above ground during the day, usually in the foliage of trees. They prefer dense leaf coverage above and an open area below. They also prefer trees that border clearings. They have been seen roosting in a woodpecker hole in British Columbia, in the nest of a gray squirrel, and under a driftwood plank. Occasionally they are found clinging to the overhangs of buildings and in caves in the latter part of the summer. They often have trouble finding their way out of the caves and die there.
This enables this narrow-winged bat to drop from the roost and pick up enough speed for flight. Although well camouflaged, eastern red bats sometimes are seen within reach of the ground. Also, they sometimes are â€śpickedâ€ť in the mistaken assumption that they are a fruit. They generally are solitary, but several may roost together on rare occasions and it is assumed that the bats communicate with each other. They are regarded as a strongly migratory bat, and dogma assumes that the furred membranes of this species provide warmth during cold spells before or during migration.
Life Cycle :While no longer completely true, more then 100 years after Merriamâ€™s comment, â€śnothing whatever appears to be known of the breeding habits of the hoary bat,â€ť there is still little information about the reproductive biology of this widespread species.
The sexes tend to occupy different parts of the range during the summer months, and therefore, mating probably occurs during the autumn migration, and perhaps during the winter, but no one has witnessed mating, not is the length of the gestation period known. Females bear two (range 1-4) young in June or early July, each weighing 5 g (0.2 oz). The newborns are partially furred, and blind at birth, their eyes not opening until 12 days of age. The young begin to fly at 30-33 days of age, and are independent soon after.
These bats wrap their hairy tail membrane around their curled up bodies for insulation while resting during harsh weather conditions. They become torpid when inactive during the day, as well as between feeding flights at night. When they are resting and non-torpid, they have a metabolic rate of 1.19 cc of oxygen per gram of body weight per hour.
Hoary bats can be seen flying in large groups in spring and autumn, during the time of breeding and migration. They are believed to migrate through Florida from late October to late November and from February through early May. Autumn migration occurs in waves, whereas spring migration appears to be less organized. Some hoary bats are believed to remain in the north and hibernate for the winter, rather than moving south of the United States like most do.
Like all microbats, hoary bats use echolocation while flying. They make a shrill, hissing sound when disturbed. Lasiurus cinereus is one of the only vespertilionid bats which makes an audible chatter during flight.
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