Bats: Myth vs. Reality
the only truly flying mammals, account for almost one quarter of
the entire number of mammal species. Although they tend to be lumped together as simply
“bats,” there are actually nearly 1,000 different species of
bats. Seven species
of bats visit or live on the Department of Energy’s Idaho
National Laboratory, or INL. Four of these species live here year-round.
defining characteristic of bats is their wings, which are simply
extended hands. Their
long fingers are connected by a thin, sturdy membrane, somewhat
like webbed feet on a duck. Many bats use echolocation to “see” their surroundings. This is a sensory system with which a bat makes
high-pitched sounds that echo back to it when the sound waves hit
an obstacle. Human-created
sonar is similar to a bat’s echolocation system, but our sonar
is much less sophisticated.
characteristic that most bats have in common is the animosity that
many humans feel toward them. These feelings are unfounded. Unfortunately, due to persecution by humans and a loss of
habitat, many bats also share the danger of extinction. The following myths and facts should clear up some of the
misconceptions about these beneficial, yet misunderstood, animals.
#1 + Bats are blind. While
we often hear the phrase, “blind as a bat,” most bats actually
have very good eyesight. Their echolocation capabilities help bats find their way in
the dark, but do not replace eyesight.
#2 + Bats will fly into people and even get caught in people’s long hair. Bats’ agility when flying allows them to change
directions quickly and at the last second. While this may give the impression that bats will collide
with us, their echolocation abilities keep them well aware of the
obstacles around them.
#3 + Bats will bite people to suck their blood. While
so-called “vampire” bats do exist, only three, of the almost
1,000 species of bats, consume blood. These bat species are found in South America, Central
America, and Mexico. Most
bats eat insects and fruit.
#4 + Bats are “bad” and “scary” creatures that we don’t want
around. In fact, just the opposite is true. Bats are natural pest control agents; an individual bat can
eat hundreds of insects an hour. Other bats disperse tree seeds, while others pollinate
are highly intelligent and are not aggressive creatures. Like people, they simply want to be left alone.