Most people do not share my love of bats. I don’t think they’re creepy; I think they’re adorable. These flying mammals have cool wings with two thin skin layers stretched over an arm, a thumb, and four very long fingers. Bats don’t flap these wings to fly but pull themselves through the air. They also use their wings to hold objects and even crawl across the ground. That’s pretty comical. I marvel at their knack for hanging out upside down. It comforts me when they fly about my neighborhood at night, knowing they are gobbling up bugs that might otherwise land on me. Bats consume hundreds of insects every hour.
I grew up near a hill in Oregon that hosted a bat cave not far from my property. I’m no expert, but my guess is they were known as The Little Brown Bat (Myotis Lucifugus) recently renamed Little Brown Myotis. On extra hot summer nights when I took a late dip in our pool, I swam as bats swooped down for sips during their hunts. I welcomed their nocturnal company. Late one evening in Odorheiu Secuiesc, Romania in Transylvania, I fell ill and walked alone across town to my room. I passed a large tree near the center of town where thousands of bats congregated. Their flights to and from the tree formed a black cloud in the night sky, and their loud communication broke the silence of a sleeping town. I paused and appreciated this unforgettable experience.
Bats are sociable creatures as most live in groups for as long as 20 years. They include over a thousand different species ranging in size from about a peanut to a wingspan comparative to an average man. Most bats communicate through echolocation, making noise and waiting for the echo. That’s how they detect the distance of an object and determine their safety margin for flight. Speaking of flight, bats are the only mammals able to fly continually, because Flying Squirrels actually only jump long distances.
Bats thrive all over the world except in extreme deserts and polar regions, so your chance of having bat neighbors (not batty neighbors—well, we all have those or might be one!) is extremely high. Bats don’t just live in caves. Bats like dying trees and abandoned buildings, or at least ones that have tight, dark spaces with little activity. Providing a bat box in an ideal location attracts bats and puts them to work for you. Most bats eat insects, but some prefer fruit, fish, small mammals, and reptiles. Ok, I admit, three species of vampire bats live on blood alone. Their teeth, however, are so small and sharp that they pierce preys’ skin undetected. That’s impressive, in a way. If you want a hunter hard at work while you sleep, post a bat box on your property.
The celebration of Halloween spotlights bats on décor, paper products, toys, candy bowls and food items. Bats are frightening symbols meant to be scary, but I don’t buy it. I know I’m out on a limb on this one—and that’s okay with me.
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