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U.S. Forest Service

Bat Pollination

After dark, moths and bats take over the pollinator night shift.

Mexican Long-Tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana). Bat flock. Photo by Steve Buchmann.

Bats are very important pollinators in tropical and desert climates. Most flower-visiting bats are found in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands.

Two species of nectar-feeding bats, the lesser long-nosed bat and the Mexican long-tongued bat, migrate north a thousand miles or more every spring from Mexico into Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Both are listed as federally endangered species.

Also see:

Bat Flowers

The flowers that are visited by bats are typically:

  • Open at night;
  • Large in size (1 to 3.5 inches);
  • Pale or white in color;
  • Very fragrant, a fermenting or fruit-like odor; and/or
  • Copious dilute nectar.

Bats feed on the insects in the flowers as well as on the nectar and flower parts, such as calabash, sausage tree, areca palm, kapok tree, banana.

Over 300 species of fruit depend on bats for pollination. These fruits include:

  • mangoes,
  • bananas, and
  • guavas.

The Agave plant and the Saguaro, state cactus of Arizona, also depend upon bats for pollination. The agave is an important plant because it is used to make tequila.

To learn more about bats and bat pollination, visit Bat Conservation International's website.

Mexican Long-Tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana). Mexican Long-Tongued Bat (Choeronycteris mexicana). Photo by Steve Buchmann.

Lesser long-nosed bat in flight approaching a cactus flower.Lesser long-nosed bat. Photo by Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.