Desert Pollinator: Lesser Long-Nosed Fruit Bat
The Lesser Long-Nosed Bat is one of the Sonoran Desert's most beloved pollinators. Tucson is visited by the North American subspecies of this bat, Leptonycteris curasoae yerbabuenae.
Flying up to 1800 km during their migration, these nectarivores are one of few bat species that travel long distances. The Lesser Long Nose travels along nectar corridors, timing their migration with the bloom and fruit of their food sources.
The disturbance of these flora, along with cave destruction have helped place this pollinator on the endangered species list in the United States and Mexico. Also a danger to the Lesser Long-Nose is the targeted destruction of their roost caves from being misidentified as vampire bats.
Female bats are more likely to migrate north as the hot caves and mines found in these regions serve as ideal maternity roosts. They give birth to one 'pup' at a time, and keep them within the roost for a gestation period of around 6 months. Pup and mother then migrate south during late summer/early fall. They dwell within these roosts in high numbers, thus the destruction of one cave can lead to the death of thousands of bats.
During its spring and fall migrations, the Lesser Long-Nosed depends especially on members of the agave family and variations of columnar cactus like the saguaro, the organpipe, and the elephant/thistle cacti. All are CAM plants (Crassulacean acid metabolism) which are defined by their ability to use CAM photosynthesis to survive in arid conditions.
Habitat preservation is key for the Lesser Long-Nosed (and many other pollinators') survival. Efforts are being made on a larger scale to protect the Lesser Long-Nosed, but individuals can make an impact by planting and maintaining native pollinator plants, and educating their communities about how essential pollinators are for our environment.