Bats. What are We Know About Them?

by on Jan.28, 2010, under Wild Nature

Our beloved friend the bat, a very misunderstood creature too many times portrayed as an evil little terror of the night. Myths of bats have been very misleading over time. European folklore often has shown the bat in sinister light. The legend of Dracula was written long before real blood drinking bats were discovered. The several species of bats that drink blood reside in South and Central America. And they do not bite and drain the blood but simply lap it up, as a dog would water.

Other folklore suggests that bats “fly like a bird” but “bite like a beast”. Native American lore tells of why the bat has no friends. It tells of him betraying the birds and then the mammals in a battle between them. When the birds were winning in the great battle he would claim to be a bird since he had wings. Then when the mammals were winning he would claim to be one of them showing his teeth and saying that birds cannot bite like him. Both sides would accept his reasoning and allow him with them. And when a truce was called it was decided that for his deceit he be forced to fly at night alone when the birds and other mammals were sleeping and that he be alone.

Another Native American belief is that bats ate volcanic rocks and spewed arrowheads. Too much craftsmanship goes into making arrowheads to even begin believing that a bat spit them out.

Are you blind as a bat? Another myth applied to bats. Bats are far from blind. They see rather well actually, only they see in black and white not in color like we do. Their eyes are developed for night vision. This vision combined with their “radar” system works exceptionally well for them in catching the insects that they live on. Bats use an echo system in which they emit a high-pitched sound that human ears can detect and then listen for its echo off of the terrain around it and build a picture of what is about them. They do not fly around at night with the intention of getting tangled in women’s long hair either. This is just another myth that has been passed down through time.

A bat flies into your home, is something evil and vile about to happen or should you be grateful for the good luck that has been bestowed upon you? This all depends on your heritage. If you are of eastern beliefs then a bat entering your home is a good omen. Yet if you were of European upbringing you would fear the evil omen that has been bestowed upon your home. The European belief though also coincides with one that even birds flying into your house is a sign of death. I wonder if a bat walked into a European home would it have a different meaning? Alas probably not, for the European beliefs of the evil nature of bats would take foremost thought in the matter.

Now if you lived in Mexico you would have yet another version to consider. Mexican belief suggests that when rats and mice grow old that they grow wings and become bats. Hmmm, I’m thinking that myth dispels itself there fairly easily.

All bats have rabies, another very misleading and damaging myth to the bat’s reputation. Facts will show that less than 1/2 of 1 % of the bat population is a carrier of the rabies virus. Rabid bats seldom attack or show aggressive behavior unless you simply have picked it up and it is defending itself.

A fact about bats, a bat is a mammal. Warm blooded and furry like other mammals, excluding the dolphin of course that has no fur. The live almost exclusively on insects or fruits depending on the breed of bat. Those that live on fruit nectar are very important in the pollination cycle of some fruits. The US has 45 species of bats, 6 of which are on the endangered list. Bat myths need to be dispelled in order to help save some these species from dieing off completely.

Worldwide there are approximately 900 species of bats. They are valuable to the planet and are not the evil dark creature that brings shivers at the thought, as portrayed in movies and myths. Bats are like humans, they give birth to live young and nurse them with milk. The female bat usually has just one young a year. The lifespan of a bat under normal conditions can be 30 yrs. Sizes of bats varies also, from the tiniest one at the weight of a dime to the largest with a wingspan of 6 feet, the large “flying foxes” of Africa, Asia, Australia, and many Pacific islands with its 6 foot wing span would be quiet an impressive site to see.

It is my hope that you now have a further understanding of bats and their evil reputation. And that seeing bats or hearing the word will not invoke fear or nightmares; just a simple understanding that the bat too is an often-misunderstood creature just as we all feel at times.


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