Night Flyers: Desert Pollinator Bats

Spending the winter in caves in Mexico, desert bats, like the Lesser Long-nose bat, migrate north in the spring and summer to roost in the southwestern United States. They time their journey to coincide with the fruiting and flowering of plants such as agave and columnar cactus. The bats pollinate different plant populations over long distances, ranging from 65 to 650 miles (100-1000 km). Desert pollinator bats such as the lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteria yerbabuenae), Mexican long-tongued bat (Choreonycteria Mexicana), Mexican long-nosed bat and (Leptonycteris nivalis) are threatened and endangered.

Cacti and agaves, upon which the bats depend, are becoming less plentiful due to the spread of invasive species, urbanization, and conversion of native vegetation to agriculture. The agave industry may deprive the bats of nectar sources by cutting all flower buds for tequila production.

Map of desert pollinator migration
Desert bats travel far between breeding lands along the border and winter roosting sites in Mexico and Central America.

NPS

Last updated: June 5, 2017