Insectivorous bats consume a diverse array of arthropod prey, with diets varying by bat species, sampling location, and season. North American bat diets remain incompletely described, which is concerning at a time when many bat and insect populations appear to be declining. Understanding the variability in foraging is thus an essential component for effective bat conservation. To comprehensively evaluate local foraging, we assessed the spatial and temporal variability in prey consumed by the little brown bat, Myotis lucifugus, in New Hampshire, USA. We collected bat guano samples from 20 sites over 2 years and analyzed sequence data for 899 of these samples using a molecular metabarcoding approach targeting the cytochrome oxidase I subunit (COI) gene. Some prey items were broadly shared across locations and sampling dates, with the most frequently detected arthropod orders broadly similar to previous morphological and molecular analyses; at least one representative sequence variant was assigned to Coleoptera in 92% of samples, with other frequently detected orders including Diptera (73%), Lepidoptera (65%), Trichoptera (38%), and Ephemeroptera (32%). More specifically, two turf and forest pests were routinely detected: white grubs in the genus Phyllophaga (50%), and the Asiatic Garden beetle, Maladera castanea (36%). Despite the prevalence of a few taxa shared among many samples and distinct seasonal peaks in consumption of specific arthropods, diet composition varied both temporally and spatially. However, species richness did not strongly vary indicating consumption of a broad diversity of taxa throughout the summer. These data characterize little brown bats as flexible foragers adept at consuming a broad array of locally available prey resources.
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