Accurate survival estimates are needed to construct robust population models, which are a powerful tool for understanding and predicting the fates of species under scenarios of environmental change. Microbats make up 17% of the global mammalian fauna, yet the processes that drive differences in demographics between species are poorly understood. We collected survival estimates for 44 microbat species from the literature and constructed a model to determine the effects of reproductive, feeding and demographic traits on survival. Our trait-based model indicated that bat species which produce more young per year exhibit lower apparent annual survival, as do males and juveniles compared with females and adults, respectively. Using 8 years of monitoring data for two Australian species, we demonstrate how knowledge about the effect of traits on survival can be incorporated into Bayesian survival analyses. This approach can be applied to any group and is not restricted to bats or even mammals. The incorporation of informative priors based on traits can allow for more timely construction of population models to support management decisions and actions.