Bats have a reputation that precedes them, and unfortunately, it isn’t a very good one. They’ve been linked to several zoonotic illnesses: Ebola, COVID, rabies… They are associated with one of the great villains of the monster world: vampires. Linguistically, they have been lumped with mental instability: “batty”, “bat shit crazy”, and “bats in the belfry”.
However, these qualities have been gross mischaracterizations of the world’s only flying mammals. (Other “flying” mammals are gliding, not flying.) Not only are bats not so horrible, or horrible at all, they are extraordinarily important to the environment. Bats are instrumental in keeping insects in check, pollinating certain plants, and spreading seeds to keep biodiversity expanding.
So, there are a lot of reasons bats are good to have around, and they are even more reasons you shouldn’t be afraid of them.
1. Bats Don’t Often Transmit Viruses to Humans
While it is true that bats have the capability of passing certain maladies to humans, it very rarely happens, and in fact, famous cases in which bats have been blamed have ultimately proven out inclusive. In reality, no evidence was ever uncovered to name bats as the cause of Ebola, and there is equally adequate evidence that points elsewhere. Do we even need to get into the origins of COVID? In short, bats have been unduly fingered for this stuff.
2. Occurrences of Bat Rabies in Humans Are Rare
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)/Youtube
The virus that bats can, with certainty, transmit to humans is rabies, but the reality of them doing it is hardly frightening. While rabies deaths in the world numbers in the tens of thousands, domestic dogs account for around 99 percent of those. Less than one percent of bats have rabies, and bats rarely come into contact with humans, much less bite or scratch them. Get treated if that happens. Rabies is totally preventable. About two people in the US die per year from it. Most deaths are in Africa and Asia.
3. Most Vampire Bats Don’t Want to Suck Your Blood
There are three species of vampire bats, all of which are native to the Americas, not Transylvania. Of the three species of vampire bats, only one feeds primarily on mammals: the common vampire bat. Most of the time, these mammals are livestock, and they are asleep outdoors at night, where vampire bats tend to feed. Rather than sucking blood, they make a small incision and lap it with their tongue. Creepy, yes, but not a huge threat to humans.
4. Bats Are Actually Very Astute Flyers
Source: BBC Earth/Youtube
To some, it seems that bats are flying around rather aimlessly and, nevertheless, very quickly. Bats, however, are incredibly skilled fliers that use echolocation to find even the tiniest prey and pluck them from the air. If they seem to swoop anywhere near a person, it’s because there is an abundance of insects there to catch. They drink by gliding above the surface of the water and take gulps in mid-flight. That’s precision!
5. Bats Eat the Deadliest Animal on the Planet: Mosquitoes
In fact, bats are fantastic for eliminating the bona fide deadliest animal—at least to humans—in the world. Mosquitoes kill an estimated 725,000 people a year, with the next closest killer being humans themselves at 475,000. While one 1960s study claimed that bats could eat 1,000 mosquitoes in an hour, this is a gross overestimate. Suffice it to say, bats eat a lot of bugs, and smaller bats—like the most common in the US, the little brown bat—love mosquitoes.
6. Bats Are Safer than Pesticides
Because bats don’t exclusively eat mosquitoes, they are actually great boons for agricultural areas. They are a natural pest eliminator, and they are much safer than pesticides which are definitely to health problems in humans. Pesticides have been around for less than 100 years and have caused various health problems, as well as cause serious damage to the environment.
7. Humans and Bats Have Cohabited for Ages
Source: Free School/Youtube
Humans and bats have been in shared living arrangements since before humans were homo sapiens. We shared caves together. We’ve shared huts together. We sometimes still share our homes with bats, either via the eaves of the house or guests in the attic. Even so, humans have managed to survive just fine. In fact, it’s bats who are more threatened by our presence than us by theirs.
In other words, bats are so scary, definitely not more than tons of other wild animals. They deserve respect and space, but they aren’t out to get humans. They are, in fact, working on our behalf most of the time. So, who’s crazy now?
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- White-Nose Syndrome Has Killed Millions of Northern Long-Eared Bats
- 10 Times Bats Were Scary Cute!
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