The Adirondacks of New York are just one of the many places bats call home. Bats populate all parts of the globe except for the Arctic circle and Antarctica, but who would expect them to–not many animals live there!
Now you may think bats are interesting or kind of adorable like me, or you may be scared of them. A surprising number of people are afraid or for some reason just outright say they dislike bats. Why?
Well, one reason is that people have been known to freak out when seeing a bat and will run around worried that it is going to get into their hair–a thoroughly amusing reaction to watch!–and some people are even worried about vampires, but this article is going to set bat matters straight.
Bat Facts, Not Myths
So let’s clear up some supposed facts about bats. Some of this information you may know, but then again maybe what you think you know is only a myth?
Scientists now count a total of 1,232 species of bats as of March 2011 (Bat Conservation International). So there is a lot to know about these fascinating creatures!
Bats Are Not…Rodents
Bats are the only flying mammal in the world! There are some other animals that can glide in the air, but bats are the only mammals able to actually fly.
Although bats are often described as “flying mice,” bats are not rodents and are actually more closely related to primates and people– a bat’s wing is something like a person’s hand after all (NYDEC).
Bats differ in size depending on the species, but the smallest bat can be less than 2 in. long and weigh less than 1 oz., while the largest can be about 13.5 in long and weigh up to 3 lbs. (Wiki).
Despite their small size bats can live a surprising amount of years. If they survive the first few delicate weeks of life, then bats generally live about 20 years, and there has been a documented case of one living up to age 3o! (Smithsonian)
Bats Are Not…Vampires
Yes, there is a type of bat that drinks blood in small amounts, but they never attack people–mostly cattle actually. If you’re still worried, well, Vampire Bats don’t live anywhere in the Adirondacks anyway! Learn more about what those bats do eat!
In case you were wondering, Vampire Bats were actually named after vampires of legend rather than the other way around. Those bats were never native to Europe or Asia where the legends began, and after explorers discovered them and their eating habits in South America they were named for the ‘vampire’ (Smithsonian).
Do you see similarities?
Bats Are Not…Blind
All bats have eyes. Why would people assume that all bats are blind?
Some bats have poor vision, true, but conversely some have very good vision that allows them to see far ranges–and some can evensee ultraviolet light! (Batworlds.com)Grey-headed Flying Fox. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Perhaps the saying “blind as a bat” began because of the clumsy looking landings of the Flying Fox–a bat that purposefully crashes into trees to stop itself during landing?
Most bats utilize a skill called echolocation that allows them to emit high-pitched sounds that will bounce off objects and then return to the bats’ ears to show them the objects surrounding them. This is a very useful trait that allows bats to easily find prey in the darkness of the night as they are nocturnal creatures.
This skill also means that a bat will not fly into your hair! You are an obvious obstacle. Though I suppose if you were standing or sitting very still a bat might assume you were a place to perch for a moment to rest? That might be how the myth got started.
It’s more probable that this myth began because of bats swooping close to people to eat the insects that are attracted to humans, and from there rumors began.
The video below explains a little more about bats and some of the popular myths that surround them:
Keep an eye out for more of the Adirondack Bats series to learn more bat facts!