Bats: Frequently Asked Questions

Will bats fly into your hair?

An old misconception people have is that bats will fly into your hair and lay eggs! The origin of this rumor may come from bats foraging low, just over the heads of individuals. While it may look as though these bats are out of control and trying to fly into someone’s hair; the reality is that these bats are in complete control chasing insects that are in evasive mode trying not to be caught. When you consider that a bat can pick a mosquito out of the air while on wing, then they certainly can avoid an object as big as our heads. As to where the egg-laying part of the rumor came from, we’re at a loss!

Are bats blind?

While “blind as a bat” remains a popular phrase, it lacks credence. It would have been more accurate to say “blind as a mole,” but such colloquialisms don’t die easily. Despite their small eyes, bats see perfectly well. Their sense of echolocation as a more reliable means of finding prey and navigating in the dark, however, is very highly developed. When you pursue food as small as a mosquito or no-see-‘um, then you’d better utilize every sense you have.

Are there vampire bats in the United States?

There are three species of vampire bats that occur in Mexico, and in Central and South America (none occur in the contiguous United States). Vampire bats feed on the blood of other animals, but they do not kill their food source. Vampire bats use their razor-sharp teeth to make a small incision, and then they lap up, rather than suck, the blood of their host.

Do all bats have rabies?

While bats can contract rabies, they are no more likely to test positive than other rabies vector species. In an Ohio study of animals submitted for rabies testing, 3.5% of bats, 11.9% of skunks, 3.1% of deer, and 3.1% of horses tested positive. Regardless of prevalence, any wild mammal showing abnormal behavior should be treated with caution and the proper authorities contacted.

Other Myths

Other phrases contributing to the poor popular image of bats include “dingbat,” “old bat,” “bats in their belfries,” and “just plain batty.” While these phrases are less than complimentary, they do not portray bats correctly. Hopefully, what you have gained from our discussion on bats is that they are an important component of our natural environment. Without bats in this world, a domino effect of problems from insect outbreaks to loss of certain plant species could be anticipated. So, next time you’re talking with your neighbor and see bats flying overhead, spread some of your newfound knowledge and help dispel the unflattering myths surrounding this fascinating and vital group of mammals.