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Northern yellow bats have relatively short, rounded ears. The fur ranges from yellowish orange or brown to nearly gray, often with slightly darker tips. Unlike red and hoary bats, only the front half of the upper tail membrane is furred, and there are no white markings on shoulders or wrists. The northern yellow bat is larger than the southern yellow bat. Mating occurs primarily in fall, probably in flight. Twins are typically born in late May or June.
Northern yellow bats live in a variety of mostly coastal habitats that contain Spanish moss or palm trees. They feed on leafhoppers, flies, mosquitoes, beetles, flying ants, and occasional damselflies and dragonflies. These bats roost year-round in Spanish moss or beneath the dead, hanging fronds of fan palms. Residential mosquito spraying appears to threaten this species, as does loss of Spanish moss and removal of old palm fronds. Northern yellow bats are nonmigratory and remain active year-round except for periods of extreme winter weather, during which they become torpid. Northern yellow bats may be seen at dusk, feeding around street lamps and over open areas such as golf courses.