Pollinators, Digital Collage, 2022

Small but mighty, the lesser long-nosed bat is the unsung hero in maintaining fragile desert ecosystems. Measuring about 3 inches long and with a brush-tipped tongue that is as long its body, this species is the perfect pollinator. Every year, it migrates from its winter home in Mexico, following the “nectar trail” of blooming cacti and agave flowers to southern Arizona and New Mexico. Along the way as it drinks the sweet nectar, the lesser long-nosed bat picks up pollen, spreading it from flower to flower. Both the saguaro cactus and agave (which is used to make tequila) depend on the lesser long-nosed bat for pollination. When it was listed as an endangered species in 1988, there were fewer than 1,000 of these nectar-feeding bats. Today, there are an estimated 200,000 bats at 75 roosts in the Southwest and Mexico. Thanks to a three-decade-long conservation partnership, the bat was saved from extinction and de-listed in 2018 -- making the lesser long-nosed bat a conservation success story. (1)

No, the lesser long-nosed bat isn’t normally yellow. This one is covered in pollen after a busy night of drinking nectar. Photo Credit: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona by National Park Service.

Just like a hummingbird, the lesser long-nosed bat can hover at flowers, using its 3-inch-long tongue — equal to its body length — to feed on nectar in desert environments. Photo Credit: Merlin D. Tuttle, Bat Conservation International.

(1) “9 Of the Coolest Bat Species in the United States.” U.S. Department of the Interior, 29 Sept. 2021, https://www.doi.gov/blog/9-coolest-bat-species-united-states.

Back to Top