Many of us, on hearing the word “bat” probably think immediately about vampire bats, or the famous Transylvanian figure, Dracula. Unfortunately, few of us know that in the world there are various species of bats, some more beautiful than others, like bats with a superb orange coloration. Or that there are large differences between the myth surrounding bats and reality. Below we present you these legends about bats, but also the scientific arguments countering these legends, the logic of these facts, basically the truth.


What do myths tell us?

What does logic say?

Myth # 1 Bats get into our hair …

… and deliberately destroy our impeccable hairstyle.

Logic #1

The human hair has a diameter of about 0.099 millimeters. Logic tells us that if bats are used to capture insects in flight during the night (meaning, in darkness), then they must possess some sixth sense, or extraordinary ability, which allows them to successfully fly in the darkness or in any environment (cave, forests, etc.). Thus, they have no way of not noticing our hair. The truth is that bats sometimes manage to avoid even those nets that are placed by bat researchers especially to capture them. Regardless of our hairstyle, or hairdresser, no bat will get entangled in our hair, whether we are rockers, punkers, long haired politicians.

However, the myth is based on some potential issues from the past. A few hundred years ago, the extravagant wigs worn by women (and not only by women), were not only fragranced, but they were held in place by using rice powder. The wig itself could have been easily avoided by bats, but rice powder has the ability to absorb ultrasounds (emitted by bats for orientation). Such rice-powdered wigs became essentially invisible to bats. Fortunately for us (and certainly for bats), the era of extravagant wigs is long gone.

Myth # 2 … .because they are blind!

They live in the dark, they certainly do not need eyes.

Logic #2

Bats are mammals, just like us humans, and have very well developed eyes. For example, the retina of the greater mouse-eared bat gathers 4-5 times more light than the human retina (Dodt & Dietrich 1970), indicating that bats can see very efficiently in darkness. In addition, bats are not guided exclusively by ultrasounds, but in known or frequented places (ex. at the entrance of caves, or on other flight corridors) they also use their eyes.

Myth # 3 Bats crave blood …

…and again, deliberately hunt us to get this blood.

Logic #3

Out of the 1,300 species of bats there are currently only three species that feed on blood. These species live exclusively in South America. They feed on the blood of animals, including domestic animals (cows, chicken, etc). The saliva of these bat species has been recently used to try and come up with a better treatment of stroke victims, because this saliva contains an anticoagulant, called very cleverly…draculine. Experiments were not yet successful but the point is that bats will not attack us for our blood. All bat species in Europe, hence also in Romania, are insectivorous, eating with high preference and great appetite huge quantities of harmful insect.

Myth # 4 Bats build nest …

…. and by doing so, they destroy the walls of our homes.

Logic #4

First of all we must know that favorite roosts used by bats are natural roosts: caves, cracks and fissures of rocks, as well as old, hollow trees. These shelters do not appear because of the activity of bats, but they are obviously of natural origin: either through the meeting of limestone with water (caves), or due to the aging of trees (hollows). The use of buildings as roosts by bats is not a well planned invasion from their part, but a necessity, due to the disappearance of natural habitats, intensive logging of forests and climate change processes that occurred on the large scale in the historic past. Buildings are sometimes the only available roosts for bats, especially in areas lacking caves or hollow trees (ex. Northern Europe).

It is also essential to note that bats do not change in any way the roost they occupy; they do not chew on polystyrene, and do not make holes in our walls. They use only existing structures, and in case of many bat species, they basically need just some irregularities in the surface of the ceiling, to hang from.

Myth # 5 They are creatures of the Devil …

… and anyway, they are Dracula’s relatives.

Logic #5

Bats have appeared over over 50 million years ago, so we can say that much earlier than the concept of the Devil. Bats are the result of unique evolutionary steps, which allowed them to actively fly, to orient themselves and hunt for insects using ultrasounds. You can read more about the evolution of bats here.

If you must relate bats to a fictional figure, than relate them to Batman. A well-known celebrity, judge, expert of countless martial arts, as well as extremely intelligent and superbly rich. He overcomes his fear of bats and becomes the embodiment of the struggle against evil.

Myth # 6 All bats have rabies …

… and they really want us to get rabies too.

Logic #6

Indeed, bats carry the rabies virus, but a recent study showed that only 11 of the 12,000 bats studied were diagnosed with rabies (meaning that the rabies manifests itself), which is a tiny percentage of 0.0009%. Regarding deaths occurred due to the transmission of rabies to humans, we must know that in the last 100 years in Europe only two people (out of which one was a researcher of bats, with very frequent contact to bats) have died due to the bite of a rabid bat. At the European level there are 1.085 confirmed cases of rabies in bats from 1977 to 2014, mostly in Western Europe (Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany). The signs of rabies in a bat are: flying during the day (flight at dusk can be normal, ex. in the case of the noctule), chaotic flight or movement, lacking coordination, cloudy eyes, abnormal behavior (ex. the bat intentionally approaches us). You can read more about this subject here.

In any case, it is important to handle bats that accidentally enter your home only with gloves or other material (towel, cloth, etc.), to avoid a possible bite that regardless of the presence or absence of rabies, can be painful. If a bat bites you, you should immediately wash and disinfect the wound, and then immediately consult a doctor, who may recommend rabies vaccination.

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