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  • Knoxville Educational Article of the Month - What is a maternity colony of bats?

What is a maternity colony of bats?

What is a maternity colony of bats?

If you have Knoxville bats in your belfry (or any other part of your building for that matter) chances are it is a maternity colony. These colonies are protected by law in most places. This means you cannot move them, harm them, or use exclusion methods to rid yourself of the creatures until all the babies are big enough to fly! In the wild females prefer to form maternity colonies in the sheltered boughs of trees, crags, or caves, but with man encroaching on their territory they have had to result to finding other shelter. This could be an abandoned building, a garage, or even your attic.

Most male Tennessee bats will roost alone in crags or protected eaves and under soffits of buildings, but around March most females come together to find a suitable shelter in which to form a maternity colony. This is for the purpose of birthing and raising their pups. Around June each females will give birth to one or two young. These pups are born very small, blind, and hairless, unable to fly and solely dependent on their mothers. After birth a mother Knoxville bat will leave the protection of the colony over short periods of time throughout the night only to forage for food and drink. They return often, because as with almost all mammals, they must nurse their young.

The main purpose of cloistering, or forming a colony is to provide the Tennessee pups with constant supervision. The females leave their young in staggered shifts, so that they are never truly alone. This provides the pups with constant supervision. It also gives them protection from predators, and the remaining females provide warmth for the hairless babies. Cloistering in maternity colonies is useful in providing their young with social interaction from birth. The bats in a colony participate in nose rubbing with the pups from early on, as well as communal grooming of the pups and themselves. Nose rubbing is both a bonding exercises for the mother and pup as well as teaching the baby how to greet other Knoxville bats. The grooming ritual is believed to be both soothing and for hygienic reasons.

The mothers groom to keep their pups clean, and females will groom each other getting spots that are hard to reach. At about five weeks of age the pups will begin to fly. At this point mothers and their young will go out in staggered groups as they teach their pups to survive. For the next few weeks the juvenile Tennessee bats will still return to the colony and nurse their mothers until the female is certain the young bat can hunt on its own. Now the colony can break up and move on. If you have a lone bat that returns to a structure in July or August, it is mostly likely a young bat that was born there and has temporarily lost its way. It will leave on its own to resume hunting soon enough.

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