By: David Mizejewski
Halloween is upon us, and what animal is more a symbol of the holiday than the bat? It's also Bat Week, a designation created to help raise awereness about how awesome bats are, how important they are to us, and to help people realize that most of what you THINK you know about them is wrong. Read on to have all of your bat myths dispelled!
Photo by Mark Evans via Flickr Creative Commons.
Did you know?
- Bats are diverse. With over 1,000 species, bats are the most diverse group of mammals.
- Bats are not rodents. They're not even closely related to rodents. They belong to the mammal order Chiroptera (rodents belong to the order Rodentia), so calling them "flying rats" is flat-out wrong.
- Bats eat more than mosquitoes. Some bats do eat mosquitoes, but that's not all they eat. Most species in North America feed primarily on insects and help control populations of beetles and moths that are agricultural pests. Other species feed on flower nectar and are important pollinators. Some eat fruit. There are other species that specialize in feeding on fish, frogs or small mammals. And of course, there are three species of vampire bat that feed on the blood of other animals.
- Bats aren't blind. All bat species have eyes and none are blind. Many species do primarily rely on echolocation to find their prey.
- Bats won't get tangled in your hair. Bats sometimes swoop close to people, likely in an effort to catch mosquitoes trying to bite us, and so it's possible that behavior inspired this myth.
- Bats are not dangerous. While bats can carry rabies like most other mammals, your chances of being bitten by a rabid bat are exceedingly low. That chance goes down to zero if you never try to handle a bat. A bat can't bite you if it doesn't touch you, and the only way that will happen is if you try to touch it. Here's how to remove a bat (or bats) that get into your home.
- Bats are in trouble. Over six million bats have died in North America in just the last few years. The deadly killer is a disease known as white-nose syndrome that mysteriously appeared in 2006 and proceeded to wipe out mass numbers of bats. Biologists are still trying to figure out what white-nose syndrom is and how to stop it.
- Bat boxes do work. Many people try to help bats by putting out bat boxes, only to be disappointed when bats don't move in. Bats boxes do work, but you have to have the correct model and you have to mount it properly. Here's a good tutorial on building and mounting a bat box.
So there you have it: bats are awesome! If you're still not convinced, watch this video of an orphaned bat responding to its caretakers, and your heart will melt.
Adopt a Bat with the National Wildlife Federation.