Bat Myths 101

Photo credit: Brock Fenton

Welcome back to #WingedWednesdays!

This week we will be debunking some common myths about bats. These incredible winged creatures often get misrepresented in the media and we would like to take this week to set the record straight. Hopefully you’ll learn something new! 

Myth #1: Bats are blind. 

Bats have eyes and can actually see very well. However, since most bats are nocturnal, they forage for their food at night. And while they can see, it’s difficult to see food sources such as insects in the dark so instead of using their eyes, they use something called echolocation.  

Myth #2: Bats will suck your blood. 

There are over 1400 species of bat across the world. Out of all these species, only 3 are known to feed on blood. These species are known commonly as vampire bats. Rather than “sucking” blood, vampire bats use their sharp teeth to make a small cut in its prey. Their saliva contains anti-coagulants which causes the blood to flow very easily and then they lap it up with their tongues. If this makes you squeamish, there’s no need to worry! Vampire bats’ preferred prey are livestock such as cows, horses, pigs, or birds. Furthermore, you won’t find these species of bat in Ontario, or even in Canada. They are typically found in Mexico, Central America, and South America. 

Myth #3: All bats have rabies.  

While yes, it is possible for bats to contract rabies, less than 0.5% of wild bats actually carry the disease1. This is far less than other mammals such as racoons, skunks, and foxes. That being said, it is important to always remain cautious around these animals. Never pick up a bat you find lying on the ground. If you have been scratched or bitten by a bat, do seek medical attention immediately for a post-exposure vaccination.  

Myth #4: Bats are flying mice.  

Bats actually aren’t rodents at all. Despite their resemblance, bats and mice aren’t even closely related. In fact, bats are more closely related to primates than to rodents! While a bat’s wing may look different compared to a human arm, the bones in their forearm are the exact same bones as in a human forearm! We share this similarity with bats because both bats and humans evolved from a common ancestor.  

Myth #5: Bats are pests.  

Bats in Ontario are insectivorous which means that they feed on insects such as beetles, moths, and flies. They don’t chew cables or damage your house. So really, it could be beneficial to have bats flying around your yard! Some people even put up bat boxes in their yard to provide a safe habitat for these amazing creatures. Farmers loves bats, as they reduce pests in their crops! 

How many of these myths did you believe? Now that we’ve debunked some common myths about bats, share these facts with your friends and family! Put their bat knowledge to the test and as always, come back next week for more bat content from the Native Bat Conservation Program.  

References:

  1. BC Centre for Disease Control. (2021). Rabies. Retrieved from http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/rabies