Much of the general population has extreme and profoundly negative connotations to bats—often seeing them as dirty, creepy, and disease-ridden. However, most of these perceptions are rooted in myths and fear. These perceptions paint a highly inaccurate picture of bats and cause them significant harm. So… what do we think we know about bats, and what is the truth?
Voiijer ‘Dalia’ shares why we should protect these social and important creatures. Experience the full Voiij on the app >>
One of the most common myths is that bats are blind. Actually, bats can see quite well. Some bats have better eyesight than humans—about 3x better. These bats are usually bigger in size and have a diet consisting of fruit. In addition, bats have a unique ability to use echolocation to see obstructions or potential prey they could encounter.
The second myth is that all or almost all bats are rabid. This is entirely false; less than 1% of bats are rabid. However, if a bat enters your home and it is acting strange, there is a high likelihood that it is rabid.
Another myth is that bats are biologically similar to rats, making them essentially rats with wings. This is, again, completely false. Rats are actually biologically more similar to humans and other primates than rodents—for example, humans and other primates give birth to one offspring per year, and so do bats! Rodents, on the other hand, give birth to multiple babies several times a year.
Lastly, bats are naturally gentle creatures and won’t attack you unprovoked. They are timid creatures and prefer to keep to themselves and their own kind (2).
As stated above, bats are highly sensitive and social creatures. Most bats live in colonies with hundreds of other bats, like the Natal Long-Fingered Bat, but some species are more solitary. Bats are highly affected by changes in their ecosystem mainly because bats have a low reproduction rate and metabolize food quickly. Therefore, bats need a lot of fruit/insects to sustain themselves. About 70% of all bat species rely heavily on local insect populations. This can cause issues when there are disturbances in the land (3).
The importance of protecting bat populations everywhere cannot be emphasized enough. Bats are necessary for the health of the global economy and human survival because they are pollinators and responsible for significant seed dispersal. They eat fruit and nectar and help pollinate various plants like bananas, peaches, and agave. In infant rainforests, bat populations are responsible for about 95% of seed spread. Furthermore, bats are the only pollinators for the agave plant. In just the U.S. corn industry, bats consume so many pests that they save the industry $1 billion on farm damage. This is hugely significant in the corn industry and proves how much of a symbiotic relationship humans have with bats. Overall, bats are a key component in maintaining a healthy ecosystem (1).
Although it’s easy to feel powerless, there are many ways we as individuals can help bats stay off the endangered species list. Some action steps include spreading awareness about how vital bats are as a species, keeping lights off at night to reduce light pollution, minimizing pesticide use, and buying a bat box to keep your local bats safe! Some other ways are humanely removing bats from your home (if one sneaks in your home) and staying out of caves and mines to avoid disturbing any bats nearby (1).
- Celley, Courtney. “Bats Are One of the Most Important Misunderstood Animals: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.” Gov, 30 Nov. 2023, www.fws.gov/story/bats-are-one-most-important-misunderstood-animals. Accessed 30 Nov. 2023.
- “Myth Busters.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 24 Oct. 2022, www.nps.gov/subjects/bats/myth-busters.htm.
- Åhslund Glass, Eleanor. “As Blind as a Bat: Myths, Misunderstandings and Perceptions of Bats through the Anthropocene.” DIVA, 2 Feb. 2022, www.diva-portal.org/smash/record.jsf?pid=diva2%3A1634436&dswid=6361.