We all know Dracula. You know the guy that flies through the night as a bat and becomes a blood thirsty menace. Of course there is Halloween to help remind us of those flying rodents. And as we all have heard, these bats clearly fly into your hair and try to bite you in the neck right? So what is it with these winged mammals? Well below is a bunch of bat facts and fallacies.
So I have been at home inspections and nothing seems to bring more fear to buyers minds than the idea that bats might have lurked in the attics. In reality bats don't want to really be in your attic. Depending on the breed, trees, rock crevices and caves are preferred homes. Bat houses are good too. I am a big fan of bats. Here are billions of reasons why.
Bats Huge Appetite--almost as big as themselves!
Their preferred meals include a huge number of agricultural and forest pests, as well as those pesky of all pesky mosquitoes. Bats can eat 50% of their own body weight each evening, and even more if they are females with pups. This is the combined weight of over 1,500 mosquitoes! In numbers humans can relate to, a recent study of the value of pest control provided by bats was at least $3.7 billion a year.
Millions of bats across North America have died due to White-Nose Syndrome, a malicious and confusing disease that attacks hibernating bats with 100% mortality rate at many sites. The brown bat population which was the most abundant species has lost 90% of its population in the east coast. UNH has a study that shows bats are beginning to show resistance to this disease.
Ironically, having bats indoors is actually a lot more frightening of an idea for homeowners.
Bats in Your House
If bats do fly into your living spaces, don’t panic. They don't want to be there. Open any outside windows and doors to the room where the bat is, and leave the room, closing any interior doors behind you and turning off the lights. They will soon find their way outside.
If you have them trapped already, you can let them go outside. In the summer, let them go ASAP. In the winter, wait for the warmest part of the day to release, if possible.
We Do Need Bats, but maybe not in your house.
For those who like fresh crops, bats are a billion dollar asset. The agricultural industry relies heavily on what bats eat and the rich fertilizer they excrete. These animals that primarily feed on insects (insectivorous), are the most prolific pest control experts in the United States. They are important global pollinators and seed dispersers. Their survival is vital to healthy ecosystems.
So, before anybody reaches for a broom--and by the way a broom won't work anyway, let me debunk some myths about these “flying bloodsucking rats” to help everyone understand why a bat problem should be handled by professionals who are really wanting to help preserve their safety along with that of homeowners.
Myth #1: They are flying little Vampires
Actually Not in North America. There are 8 native species in New Hampshire, but not the vampire bat. There are bat species that feed on blood, but they reside in Latin America. There are only 3 total vampire bat species (out of over 1,300) and only 1 targets mammals. Bats in New England attics are not going for your hair, or your neck, or near humans at all, really.
Myth #2: They’re Foaming at the mouth Rabid
That’s just impossible. If bats were all infected with rabies, they wouldn’t be around to infect other animals by now. In fact, less than 1% of all bats are infected with the virus. Though one should be cautious around bats, there are telltale signs of a rabies infection. As mentioned above, bats generally steer clear of humans. If they aren’t doing so then they may be suffering from a rabies infection that renders them too sluggish to get away. So, bats are no more rabid than other mammals, but those that are like a rabid dog or racoon or fox will bite and should be avoided.
Myth #3: They’re Dirty Flying Rats.
They actually aren’t rodents. or “rats with wings”. Bats are winged mammals. Bats aren’t even in the same genetic order as rodents. The important difference here is that bats fly. If bats were human, you would say they are actually have OCD--they meticulously clean themselves (sometimes for hours).
Myth #4: They’re Blind as a Bat—well not really
We’ve all heard the expression “Blind as a bat” Well, they can see better than humans. They master sensory stimuli through “echolocation” has lead some people to believe that they “see” things via hearing them with their disproportionately large ears. Though this certainly helps, it isn’t their only advantage. As it turns out, they can see 3 times better than humans can. This means that they aren’t likely to accidentally fly into your hair, much less a person.
Myth #5: They’re Stuck
Bats don’t nest at all, let alone in people’s hair. A particularly ridiculous myth is that bats get stuck in human heads of hair. I have already mentioned that they aren’t likely to fly near people in general, and that they are far too agile to get stuck anywhere.
Myth #6: They’re Multiplying
Bats aren’t Baby Machines. Since people tend to think they are like rats which do mass produce babied, for bats it is only one at a time. If homeowners have a bat infestation, it isn’t due to rapid reproduction. Bats only produce one single pup per litter, and only have 2-3 litters during the typical spring breeding season.
Myth #7: They’re Unlucky
Not in China. China is swarming with bats, from caves to the art that defines their culture. The Chinese symbol for bat is the same as that of good fortune.
Conserving Bat Populations is good for everyone. Not being afraid of one is the first step.