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  • Fort Worth Educational Article of the Month - What is the summer maternity colony season?

What is the summer maternity colony season?

What is the summer maternity colony season?

In the autumn Texas bats will mate and the female stores his sperm in her body over winter hibernation. In the spring the female will release the sperm as she ovulates, impregnating herself. Around March the female bat is now ready to go about the business of reproducing. During this time male bats will find a solitary roost while their female partners look for other females to form a maternity colony. These colonies can set up house in caves, hollow trees, underpasses, abandoned buildings, or attics. The females look for quiet, secluded spots that provide ample protection from predators and the elements in which to safely rear their young.

Maternity colonies vary in size from a 10-12 bats to over 5000. The purpose of this communal birthing is to help assure the survival of the young and protection for the birth mothers. In June each female will give birth to one or two pups. All females in the colony take responsibility for the care of the small hairless, helpless pups. The mother bats go out to hunt in short shifts, always leaving some behind a few to care for their wards. They return frequently to nurse the babies, and all take part in grooming, comforting, and teaching the pups. The colony not only provides protection to the young and their mothers, but warmth, company, and social interaction, all important things for survival.

Within the Fort Worth colony interaction among the mother bats and their pups is constant. As bats leave and return to the cloister they rub noses- not only with their pups, but with other nearby females and young. Allgrooming- the act of cleaning each other is also important. Grooming the babies keeps them clean and is believed to comfort them. Females groom each other in places they can’t reach themselves, removing dirt, and possibly parasites. Studies have shown that if a mother does not return to the colony, another female will attempt to take over the nursing and care of its young.

After about five weeks the pup is ready to fly. The Texas colony now has the task of taking the young bats out to hunt and forage, teaching them survival skills. As before, these hunting parties go out in short spurts, leaving some young and mothers behind to guard the colony. Mothers continue to nurse their young even after they can hunt, until she is sure the juvenile bat can fend for itself. Around the end of July the colony is ready to disperse and move on, letting the now mature off -spring go to find their own mates.

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