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Common Myths About Bats

Image:  bat photo

It's unfortunate that much of what people "know" about bats has been learned from Hollywood. Hollywood hasn't been very accurate or flattering in its portrayal of these small beneficial mammals.

Many cultures beyond Europe and North America revere bats. An ancient Chinese symbol commonly used on the clothing of nobles shows five bats in a circle and means good luck and happiness. World wide, bats range from bumblebee size to six-foot wingspans.

Unless you're watching a horror movie, you won't see bats get tangled in women's hair. Bats are agile and adept flyers. They may fly close to people, just as swallows do when you walk through a grassy field, where they feed on insects flying in your vicinity. There are more than 900 species of bats worldwide. Most feed on insects and fruit.

Only three of the 900 bat species feed on blood. No bat is capable of "sucking blood." The three "vampire" species make a small scratch in the skin with their teeth and lap up the blood that leaks out, helped by anticoagulant in their saliva. The majority of bat species are insect eaters, taking on the night-flying insects that swallows take on those out in the daytime.

Bats are the only truly flying mammals. They have taken the birds' unique evolutionary path – powered flight.

Bats are not blind. They can see as well as you, probably even better in low light. Bats also echolocate – i.e. they use high frequency sound to create an image of their surroundings.

At night bats fill many of the same niches that birds fill during the day. Watch for bats at dusk in your neighborhood. Bat watching can be fun!

– Earthcare Northwest,
Seattle Audubon Society

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Last modified on November 20, 2000.