The role of the forest canopy in protecting bats roosting in forest from predators is poorly known. We analysed the effect of canopy closure on emergence time in Barbastella barbastellus in a mountainous area of central Italy. We used radio-tracking to locate roosts and filmed evening emergence. Comparisons were made between roosts in open areas and those in dense forest. Median emergence time and illuminance were correlated. Moreover, from pregnancy to late lactation bats emerged progressively earlier, probably because of the exceptionally high wing loading affecting pregnant bats and the high energy demand of lactation. A significant influence of canopy closure on median emergence time was revealed after adjusting for the effects of light and reproductive state. Bats in open habitat emerged later than those roosting beneath closed canopy. In cluttered habitats, predators relying on vision may find it more difficult to detect and catch bats at light levels which would offer more chances of success when attacking prey in open habitats. Bats in dense forest are less vulnerable to predators and may take advantage of an earlier emergence by prolonging foraging. Although more vulnerable, lactating females roosting at open sites may benefit from warmer roosting conditions. Roosts in dense forest may be preferred under intense predation pressure. Forest management should favour canopy heterogeneity to provide bats with a range of roosting conditions. Our work emphasises the role of a fine-grained spatial scale in the roosting ecology of forest bats.