Bats: Myths vs. Facts – Stereotypes of the Flying Mice

Bats are one of the most interesting animals you learn about as a child. They sleep during the day, and are active at night. They are the only mammals that capable of sustained flight, because of their webbed wings. Also some consider them to have the appearance of a flying rodent. Needless to say they are interesting creatures with a peculiar look.  Due to the fact that they are mysterious, myths and folklores have developed around bats. Most of these myths display bats in a negative and harmful light, while some have inspired fictional superheroes like the popular figure Batman. Regardless they are a part of popular culture, and because of this it is important we distinguish which is fact and which is fallacy surrounding these fascinating mammals.

Question #1- Are Bats Blind?

If you answered True, unfortunately you were wrong. Bats can see very well, some bats can see up to 20 times better than us. Mega Chiroptera bats have very large eyes that enable them to see fruits and flowers in the dark. It is true however that many bats use echolocation as their choice of finding prey and navigating in the dark. Echolocation is the use of sound waves and echoes to determine where objects are in space. Bats have adapted large ears, which help them in this process.

Question #2- Do Vampire Bats really exist?

This one is actually true. There are 3 species out of the thousands that do have a blood diet. These species weigh less than 50 grams and live in Central and South America, and they do not suck blood, instead they make a small incision with their razor sharp teeth on a sleeping animal and then lap up the blood. The animal usually doesn’t even wake up or feel the bite.

Question #3- Are all bats dirty and carry rabies?

The answer to this one is definitely No. Bats are generally very clean animals. They groom themselves daily along with inverting or hanging right side up to avoid soiling on themselves. Even though they are able to contract rabies, less than half of 1% of all species actually has rabies. In fact, you are more likely to contract rabies from an unvaccinated dog or cat.

Misconceptions about bats often lead to fear or discomfort around them. Myths can be detrimental to their reputation, and even the true facts can be misleading. Bats are extremely beneficial to the environment all around the world. They perform vital ecological roles by pollinating flowers and dispersing fruit seeds. Many tropical plant species depend entirely on bats for the distribution of their seeds. Bats also are important, because they consume insect pests, reducing the need for pesticides.


Post by Sam Odi, Second-Year, Economics