Fourteen species of bats are native to Missouri, including two that are endangered. Because all of the bats native to Missouri are insect eaters and consume huge amounts of the winged pests, these flying mammals play an important role in keeping the state's nighttime bug population in check.
The little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and the big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) are the two species a homeowner is most likely to encounter. That's because the bats will at times roost in a home or a building. Most of the other species of bats found in Missouri prefer caves or trees. Both bats are -- no surprise -- brown in color and have wings that are a little darker shade of brown. The little brown bat's body is typically about 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 inches long, while the big brown bat's body is typically about 5 1/2 to 8 inches long.
Missouri has three species of bats, the Indiana, the Ozark Big-eared and the gray, that are listed on the U. S. Endangered Species list. Unlike some species that live in caves only when hibernating, gray bats (Myotis grisescens) live in caves all year.
The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis) ranges across the eastern United States, including Missouri, during the warm months. In the winter, however, they gather in huge numbers, with the entire population hibernating in only a few select caves.
The Ozark Big-eared bat, as the name implies, has very big ears. According to "National Geographic," this bat may no longer be dwelling in Missouri caves. All threes pecies are endangered mostly due to a continuing degradation of the caves in which bats like to roost by explorers, miners and others who enter their habitat.
Some bats live in Missouri only part of the year then migrate elsewhere, depending upon the weather. The evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis) is a small reddish brown bat that sometimes lives in buildings, spends most of the year in Missouri, but winters elsewhere. At present, not much is known about where this bat species hibernates. The pale brown hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus) is the largest bat species in Missouri. During the winter, this bat migrates to Mexico, South America and parts of southern California. The red bat (Lasiurus borealis), which can range in color from bright reds and oranges to duller bricks and chestnuts, also migrates during the winter months, although some may remain in the southern parts of Missouri.
The other bat species in Missouri include the rarely seen, medium-sized northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis) and the eastern pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus subflavus), which is the smallest species found in the east. Another species in Missouri is the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), which is a black bat with hair frosted with a silver tip. The small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) is a brown bat with a black mask. The Rafinesque's big-eared bats are a relative of the Ozark big-eared bat and is listed as a threatened species. Tthe Brazilian Free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) also appears in Missouri.