June 2015

Straw Colored Bat

Location: widespread throughout Africa, and Madagascar

Habitat: found in most forests, and savanna zones south of the Sahara

The straw-colored fruit bat is not entirely straw colored.  Their neck and back are a yellowish- brown color, while their underside is tawny olive or brownish.  This is one of the larger species of fruit bats.  Males are slightly larger than females.  They typically weigh 8-12 ounces.  They measure 5-8 inches in length, and their wingspan is 30-36 inches.  Their wings are long and narrow, allowing them to fly long distances and not expend too much energy by flapping them a lot.   

Bats are divided into two suborders.  There are the “Megabats” or Megachiroptera, which are herbivorous or specifically frugivorous.  Some are called “flying foxes”.  The straw-colored fruit bat fits into this category.  The second group is “Microbats” or Microchiroptera.  This group varies in what they eat.  They can be herbivores, carnivores, frugivores and some feed exclusively on blood.  There are many differences between these two groups.  Microbats have complex and sometimes large external ears, while megabats have simple external ears.  Microbats can use echolocation to search for food, while megabats cannot.  Megabats use their eyesight and sense of smell for finding their food. 

This species of bat is a very social, roosting species.  They tend to roost in groups of 100,000-1,000,000 individuals!  At night the colony leaves the roost in small groups to find food, which is usually in nearby forests or plantations.  They find their food by sight, as well as smell.  They have been observed chewing on soft wood, probably for the moisture.  Because they eat fruits and flowers, they play a very important role in pollination and seed dispersal of the forests.  Even though they feed at night, they can be active during the day while resting, as they move about the roost.  These bats will use the same food sources from season to season.  They can be quite harmful to crops, since they live in very large colonies and roost near their food source.  It is unclear whether their usefulness as pollinators and seed dispersers outweighs the damage they do to crops and plantations. 

Predators of this species include owls, eagles, snakes, buzzards and civets.  Humans are known to consume these bats in Zaire and West Africa. 

The average life expectancy of the straw colored fruit bat is about fifteen years in the wild.  They can live closer to twenty years in captivity.  The record lifespan was recorded at 21 years and 10 months. 


This species of bat is very abundant, so they do not have any legal protection. 


Hamlett, Lori.  Nashville Zoo at Grassmere.  “Short-tailed leaf-nosed bat”.  http://www.nashvillezoo.org/bats.htm

Lincoln Park Zoo.  “Straw colored fruit bat”.  http://www.lpzoo.com/tour/factsheets/mammals/straw_bat.html

The Lubee Foundation.  “Eidolon Helvum”.  http://www.cafl.com/lubee/bat3.htm

Organization for Bat Conservation.  “Meet some Bats”.

Ruiz, K. 2002. "Eidolon helvum" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed September 07, 2004 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Eidolon_helvum.html.