MIAMI COUNTY — Bats have had a bad rep, especially the way they have been represented in horror movies and as a symbolism of Halloween – but just how scary are they, really?
With bats being nocturnal, they have been associated to the dark and have been seen as terrifying creatures of the night as depicted on television and literature. Bats have been associated to Halloween as far back as its origin over 2,000 years ago. While celebratory dancing would take place around enormous bonfires to ward off ghosts, that would then draw in mosquitos and moths and also bats who preyed upon the insects.
With the discovery of the vampire bat in the 17th century and through literature such as Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” that was published in 1897, the winged mammal has been deeply rooted in our culture to Halloween and has had negative connotations.
“It is sad that they are horrified on television, they are gentle,” said Tama Cassidy, assistant environmental education director at the Miami County Park District. “They are kind of remarkable animals and I really enjoy them.”
Bats will eat insects that are unwanted in crops and many are pollinators due to flowers being a part of most species of bats’ diet.
“Bats are very beneficial, they eat a lot of insects that we would rather not have around,” Cassidy said.
As for the urban legend that bats try to entangle themselves in people’s hair, that is a myth. When bats are prepared to fly, they take flight into a path and commit to it – whether you are in the way or not.
“Bats are not trying to fly into your hair, that is a myth,” Cassidy said. “They will fly just like a bird … you are standing in their fly zone.”
Other myths are:
- Bats are not vicious, they pose little threat to people who leave them alone and only bite in self-defense.
- Not all bats live in caves — some choose to live under barks in trees in wooded areas, which is what bats do in the Miami County area.
- Bats are not really blind; they don’t see in color and can see by sonar.
- Bats are not rodents, they are mammals called Chiroptera, which translates to “hand-wing.”
- Most bats do not have rabies, less than 1 percent has rabies and dies from it if affected.
There are no vampire bats in Ohio, but there are 13 different breeds according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.
Cassidy said the prominent time to see bats in Miami County are in the spring and summertime when they are hunting for insects and out from hibernation. The parks have bat programs during that time as well and encourage the community to look out for program listings and participate to learn more about bats.
Reach reporter Amy Barger at (937) 451-3340 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall.