Bats are such misunderstood creatures. The frequent subject of dark and scary stories and myths, they have accumulated a bad rap over centuries. But really, they are vital members of ecosystems worldwide, acting as a natural pest control by eating insects and helping to pollinate plants and disperse seeds. While some species can be a little creepy to look at, many bat species are downright adorable. We've gathered up examples of just how cute these important animals can be, so we get over that irrational fear and start appreciating them for all they do for us.
1. Egyptian fruit bat
The photo above is the Egyptian fruit bat as a wee baby. It's a species found throughout Africa and the Middle East that loves to eat wild dates. As he gets bigger, his cute factor will only increase:
2. California leaf-nosed bat
Found in Mexico and the U.S., this species loves the desert heat. You can find these bats in the Sonoran and Mojave deserts, where they dine on insects like crickets, grasshoppers and moths. It is also a particularly skilled flier, able to fly at low speeds using minimal energy, and can maneuver in flight better than many other bat species. Plus, look at those ears!
The California leaf-nosed bat is an ace flyer and has adorable ears. (Photo: Joshua Tree National Park [public domain]/Flickr)
3. Honduran white bat
So different from most bats, this adorable species is a beautiful snow white, with yellow ears and nose. It is also itty bitty, only a few inches in length. The species is a "tent-making bat," roosting along the ribs of large leaves, which they make into a tent-like structure by nibbling at the side veins. This roosting technique protects them from weather and predators as they rest.
The Honduran white bat is small enough to easily be held in the human hand. (Photo: Leyo [CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons)
Anyone for a marshmallow? Oh, wait...
These tiny bats make their homes along the bottom of leaves that afford them superior protection. (Photo: Leyo/Wikimedia Commons)
4. Indian flying fox
This species is one of the largest of the bats, with a wingspan that can reach 4-5 feet. Because fruit bats eat all sorts of different fruits, they are vital pollinators. This species can travel anywhere from 9 to 40 miles in a night, so its importance to wide seed dispersal and pollination can't possibly be understated.
5. Big brown bat
A cute bat with a cute name. This fuzzy little guy can be found in North America, Central America and the very northern parts of South America. They are a huge benefit to people because they dine on insects often considered pests, including moths, beetles and wasps. Unfortunately, white-nose syndrome is a serious threat to this and other bat species.
6. Dwarf epauletted fruit bat
This ridiculously cute species is small, only 3-3.7 inches in length. Found in Africa, they eat small fruits, nectar and pollen. Too many times bats are dissed as "flying rats." Well here are three cheers for a flying mouse, a flying Mighty Mouse!
7. Split-nosed bat
This family of bats is also called horseshoe bats because of the shape of the skin around their noses. They are insect eaters, using their huge ears for echolocation, and their broad wings for particularly agile flight in chasing down their prey.
8. Brown long-eared bat
This European bat species also has particularly long ears, with a distinctive fold at the bottom. But even with such ears, this species relies on its eyes as much as its ears for finding prey. It dines mainly on moths found among the leaves and bark of trees.
9. Striped yellow-eared bat
This adorable bat is found in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Panama in mature evergreen forests. However, its cute-factor isn't sparing it from a concerning loss of habitat to human deforestation and habitat degradation. Thankfully, it is also found in protected areas, which will help slow the decline of the species' population.
The striped yellow-eared bat faces deforestation threats in many of its habitats. (Photo: Karin Schneeberger [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons)
10. Mediterranean horseshoe bat
Such a face! This sweet critter is found in warm, wooded areas, particularly those with plenty of caves and a water source. There, they hunt for moths and small insects. Like the split-nosed bat, the distinctive fold of skin around the nose helps to direct and focus the sounds they make for echolocation. The species is relatively rare, and is listed as "near threatened" on the IUCN Red List.
11. Desert long-eared bat
Say cheeeeeese!! Found in the desert areas from Morocco through Egypt and the Arabian peninsula, this bat is perfectly at home in arid and seemingly inhospitable regions. It is quite a predator, feeding on frightening prey including scorpions, like the highly venomous Palestine yellow scorpion. They seem to be immune to scorpion venom. While we might think that smile is cute, it's one all scorpions should tremble at.
The desert long-eared bat makes short work of scorpions, even the venomous variety. (Photo: Charlotte Roemer [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikipedia)
12. Pygmy pipistrelle
This European species is one that anyone who likes hanging out near rivers and streams should appreciate. They dine along woodlands and wetlands, feasting on aquatic midges and other insects. They often take up residence in buildings for roosting, so part of proposed conservation measures to protect it include bat-friendly practices in the construction and maintenance of buildings.
The pygmy pipistrelle likes to roost in human buildings. (Photo: Evgeniy Yakhontov [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons)
13. Greater false vampire bat
Found in South Asia and Southeast Asia in humid rainforests, this bat's adorable features mask what an exceptional predator it is. It can eat everything from large insects to lizards, frogs, rats, small birds and even other species of small bats. Amazingly, the greater false vampire bat can detect and catch prey like mice and frogs in total darkness without using echolocation.
So cute it's scary, the greater false vampire can detect prey in the dark without even using echolocation. (Photo: Aditya Joshi [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikimedia Commons)
14. Lesser false vampire bats
Mini versions of the cuteness above. And instead of eating larger prey like lizards and mice, these smaller guys go for insects. Cuddling up in roosts of 3-30 individuals, these guys can be found napping in rock crevices and caves, foliage and the hollows of trees.
Smaller than their other vampire bat cousins, the lesser false vampire bats make their own homes in caves and hollowed out trees. (Photo: Piekfrosch [GNU]/Wikimedia Commons)
15. Great fruit-eating bat
Really, can you not fall in love with these little striped faces? Found in South and Central America, this bat species is another tent-making bat. Though it is considered a species of "least concern" on the IUCN Red List, it is found in forests and is somewhat at risk due to habitat loss.
Like the Honduran white bat, these great fruit-eating bats like to make their shelters out of leaves. (Photo: Brian Gratwicke [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Wikipedia)
16. Eastern red bat
This proud mother bat has not one, not two, but three tiny babies cuddling up with her to keep warm and safe. Having twins is common for this species, and they're known to even have quadruplets. Four tiny fuzzy baby bats at once? Cuteness overload.
Twins are very common among eastern red bat. (Photo: Josh Henderson [CC BY-SA 2.0]/Wikipedia)
17. Kitti's hog-nosed bat
This species is also known as the bumblebee bat, and it's not hard to figure out why. It's teensy, at only 1-1.3 inches long, and weighing about as much as a dime. It is the world's smallest bat and arguably also the world's smallest mammal. It only leaves its roost for about 30 minutes at dusk and 20 minutes at dawn, so all of its feeding must be done in these little windows of time. Unfortunately, it is listed as a vulnerable species due to human disturbance and habitat destruction.
18. Lesser short-nosed fruit bat
Found in South and Southeast Asia and Indonesia, this bat species loves dining on mangoes. Really any aromatic fruit, but mostly mangoes. And who couldn't adore a mango-loving bat with a sweet face like this! They also eat nectar and pollen and, like other fruit-eating bats, are important for plant pollination.
Lesser short-nosed fruit bats love most any fruit, but they especially enjoy drinking from mangoes. (Photo: Anton 17 [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikipedia)
19. Spotted bat
Tiny bats with spots. Yes please! This species has three distinctive white spots on an otherwise black back — basically, they're like the dalmatians of the bat world. They also have the largest ears, relative to their body size, of any bat species in North America. DDT nearly took out this species, but its population seems to have come back since the pesticide was banned. It dines primarily on grasshoppers and moths.
The spotted bat population has bounced back in North America since the banning of DDT. (Photo: Paul Cryan [public domain]/Wikipedia)
20. Hoary bat
This species can be found throughout North and South America, and there is also a hoary bat species endemic to Hawaii. It gets its name from the frosted coloring on its coat, since "hoary" means "having gray or white hair." It is mostly a loner, roosting individually in trees, and it dines primarily on moths.
The hoary bat is a bit anti-social as it prefers to roost alone. (Photo: Daniel Neal [CC BY 2.0]/Wikipedia)
21. Spectacled flying foxes
The common name for this bat is fairly obvious as well. These guys live in forest and rainforest regions of Northeast Australia, and rely on rainforest fruits and flowers for their diet. This mother is hanging out with her baby. Juveniles nurse until they are over five months old. When they are weaned, they join other juveniles in "nursery trees" where they gain strength by flying increasing distances with the colony during evenings.
The spectacled flying fox rely on family for flight and hunting training. (Photo: Justin Welbergen [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikipedia)
22. Southern little yellow-eared bat
This species lives in the Atlantic Forest region of southern Brazil and eastern Paraguay. Not much is known about this species yet, but we do know one thing: It's cute.
The southern little yellow-eared bat is something of an enigma to researchers. (Photo: Karin Schneeberger [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikipedia)
23. Sulawesi fruit bat
This sweet-faced flying fox is a lowland species of the Sulawesi subregion. It has a relative tolerance for human disturbance and can be found roosting in trees in villages as well as in bamboo stands. While they are often hunted for bushmeat, in some areas they are protected because it is believed this bat is a bearer of good fortune. Considering the benefits fruit-eating bats bring to an ecosystem, it seems like a wise belief.
The Sulawesi fruit bat is often hunted for as bushmeat. (Photo: Scott Heinrichs [CC BY-SA 3.0]/Wikipedia)
24. Pale spear-nosed bat
This Central and South American bat species feeds mostly on nectar, pollen and flowers but is omnivorous and will snag insects as well. In some areas, their diet may shift from plants to insects depending on the season. This species is exceptional in that it has an unusually complex set of calls, with up to 20 different ones — the same as many non-human primates. It also has the ability to judge the shape of objects, not just the size and location, by using echolocation. All in all, it is an amazing, and adorable, species of bat.
Pale spear-nosed bats have a complex set of calls that are only rivaled by non-human primates in their number. (Photo: Karin Schneeberger [CC BY 3.0]/Wikipedia)
25. Gambian epauletted fruit bat
This joyful mom has a baby at her side. Found mainly in Africa, these bats can be found where there are fig, guava, mango and banana trees, and use sight and smell rather than echolocation to find food. They travel in groups, flying in packs from roosting to feeding sites in the evenings. They will carry fruit away from a tree and dine elsewhere to avoid predators, which means they are important for seed dispersal. In fact, bats can carry over one ton of seeds away from a single wild fig tree over the course of several nights! Human disturbance, habitat destruction and pesticides used on fruit crops are all a threat to the species.