This Halloween, Take a Moment to Understand the Helpful (not scary) Bat

Except when they accidentally fly in your home or get into the attic, Halloween is usually the only time anyone notices bats. This time of year you’ll see them on T-shirts, cupcakes and front doors, symbolizing the spookiness and darkness of Halloween. Looking at Halloween’s usual characters, bats are arguably the least understood and the most maligned. Bats are (believe it or not) helpful, sociable little creatures, (when they’re not inside your home) and you shouldn’t be afraid of them! 

(Ace Wildlife Control/Lyon Media) Little Brown Bat relaxing on Halloween day.

“People fear what we don’t understand, and with bats nocturnal, and tending to be small, they’re cryptic,” she said. “Even us bat biologists don’t know a heck of a lot about them. It only takes a few wrong turns to perpetuate myths and fears about bats.”

It’s actually hard to pinpoint why bats are so associated with this holiday. Many bat experts mention the Dracula movies of the 1950s, which solidified the bat-vampire myth. O’Keefe notes that you see them a lot around Halloween, because they’re swarming now and mustering into caves for the winter. Other theories suggest they’ve been Halloween beasts since the beginning. As Celts celebrated their harvest festival Samhain, which evolved into Halloween, they lit bonfires, which attracted insects — which attracted bats. But this isn’t clear.

Bats are THE Only Flying Mammals

There are about 1,200 species in all, which is almost a fourth of the total number of mammals.

Mary Jean “Corky” Quirk, an educator with NorCal Bats in Sacramento, has three live bats she brings to presentations and schools. The animals were injured and couldn’t be released, so now they serve as wildlife ambassadors. School kids and adults are almost always enchanted by them once they get a look.

“One thing that amazes people the most is how very small bats in the U.S. are,” she said. “When they are able to actually see the bats more closely, they can begin to see what their faces look like. They’re much more dog-like than rodent-like.”

Also, they are constant and obsessive groomers, so they’re very clean (although their caves are, well, not).

Bats Protect and pollinate crops, From walnuts to tequila

A colony of 1,000 Mexican freetailed bats can eat the equivalent of two full grocery bags (the brown paper kind) of insects every night, according to an estimate from researchers at Sacramento State University. If bats didn’t eat them, the insects would be free to eat crops with abandon, increasing pesticide use and destroying yields, said Rachael Freeman Long, a University of California Cooperative Extension adviser. Almost all North American bats are insectivores, so this is true throughout the U.S.

In the southwest and Mexico, nectar-eating bats are the primary pollinators of several cactus and agave, which is used to make tequila.

Other cultures are not so anti-bat. In China, for instance, they’re powerful good luck symbols. The word for “bat” in Chinese (fú 蝠) sounds like the word for good fortune or happiness.

Bats Are In Trouble

More than 5.5 million bats have died from a fungal infection known as white-nose syndrome, and their populations could take decades to recover, if they do at all. Bats have extraordinarily long lifespans, sometimes living 40 years. They give birth to one pup per year, so rebuilding bat colonies will take a long time.

Whatever the origins of their Halloween story, it’s a good excuse to celebrate bats. Happy Halloween!

Relocating bats safely and humanely helps to maintain bat populations and decreases the chances that bats and people will come in contact with each other. Call the Ace Wildlife Control team to make sure all bats and their young are humanely relocated, and that all entry points are sealed.

Call (615)-921-1479 to schedule your FREE inspection today!

“When Critters Crawl, We’re Who You Call”
Ace Wildlife Control
7085-B Whites Creek Pike
Joelton, TN 37080