:: Bat Phobia & Bat-Related Myths ::




Do you fear Bats? Is this fear warranted?

Cute Flying Fox - Want to adopt him?An uncontrollable, irrepressible fear of bats may exist, but it is often the result of centuries of prejudice, misinformation and ignorance about bats. The Dracula and other horror stories have contributed greatly to these misconceptions causing people to fear them and be unconcerned for their conservation.

A “Myth” is a commonly held belief, idea or explanation that is not true.

Myths arise from people’s need to make sense of things we do not understand or have sufficient knowledge of. They attempt to explain unpleasant events in ways that fit with our preconceived ideas about the world - they arise from and reinforce our prejudices and stereotypes. Myths have powerful implications for how we look at the world. Below we present some common myths and illusions about bats.

Contain your phobia by confronting the following deceptive myths!


True or False

More Information

All bats are blind.


All bats can see, some see better than humans. The mega bats have large eyes that enable them to see flowers and fruit in the night. Smaller bats can see, but do rely on their ability to echolocate for capturing insects and navigating in the dark.

Bats will get tangled in your hair at night.


Bats do not want to be in anybody's hair! Experiments have been done placing bats in people's hair. The bats would not stay on anybody's head. Even when long hair is wrapped around a bat it will free itself and fly away.

Bats are aggressive and will attack humans


Bats are shy, naturally gentle and not aggressive. Like any cornered wild animal, bats may bite in self-defence when picked up

Bats are related to mice and rats


Bats are not rodents. They belong to the order of Chiroptera, which means hand-winged. In number of species, Chiroptera is the second largest group of mammals in the world. They are the only mammals capable of true flight.

Bats hibernate during winter


Bats can hibernate at will. If there is a food shortage due to weather changes, bats can shut down their metabolism and sleep until better times.

Bats are covered with fine feathers


Bats have fur. The amount varies, depending on the species and climatic conditions. Some bats have long angora-like fur, ranging in colour from bright red or yellow to jet-black or white.  One species is furless, and another even has pink wings and ears.

Bats are mammals and drink mother's milk during first weeks of life


Like humans, bats give birth to poorly developed young and nurse them from a pair of pectoral breasts. Mother bats have been known to adopt each other's young.

Bats reproduce profusely - a mother may have 5 - 8 babies per year


Whereas mice have litters of baby mice several times during the year, most bats usually give birth to one pup a year, and some do not give birth until the pups are two or more years old, thus making them the slowest reproducing mammals on earth for their size. Sixty percent of bats do not survive infancy, so population recovery is quite slow - for this and other reasons bat populations are vulnerable to extinction. 

According to the type of bat, they either eat fruit, nectar, insects, fish, frogs and small mammals like mice


Seventy percent of all bat species eat insects; most of the remaining 30% eat fruit, pollen and nectar. The False Vampire Bat of Central America captures birds, other vertebrates and occasionally, other species of bats by grabbing them by the neck and killing it with one powerful bite. The Fisherman or Bulldog Bat of Central America feeds on fish during the dry season but eats beetles and moths in the rainy season. By echolocating, the Fringed-lipped Bat of Central America can distinguish between a poisonous and a non-poisonous frog, its main prey.

Most fruit eating bats do not echolocate. They find their food by sight and smell.


Echolocation is unique to bats and some species of dolphins and whales. It is similar to common sonar, in which a sound is emitted by the bat and bounces off insects or objects and returns to the bat's ears. Echolocation enables bats to catch insects in flight.

Most fruit eating bats do not echo locate. They find their foodby sight and smell. Since they cannot navigate dark caves without echo location, they commonly roost in tree hollows, on the bark itself, or under leaves. Flying foxes simply hang in plain view.

The squeaks and squawks bats make in their roost are echolocation noises.


Most of the high-frequency sounds emitted by bats for echolocation are inaudible to humans, although bats also produce sounds that humans can hear. These are mostly social calls.

Vampire bats do not exist - it is merely a myth


Of the world's 1000 species, only three are vampire bats, limited mostly to Central and South America. Vampire bats do not attack humans. They are very small and they generally drink the blood of animals and poultry. They do not actually suck blood, but rather they make a small incision with razor sharp teeth and then lap up the blood. Scientists are currently studying the saliva of these bats to develop new anticoagulant drugs to prevent blood clots in heart patients.

Bats are carriers of diseases, especially rabies


By definition, a carrier is a person or animal that carries a disease without being sick. Bats are not designated rabies carriers. They contract and die from rabies much like humans, cats, and dogs do. The odds that a person will die of a bat-borne disease are usually far less than those of being killed by a dog, a bee sting, or of food poisoning at a church picnic.

A grounded bat should never be handled because it may bite in self-defence.

Bat droppings are a dangerous source of lung diseases like tuberculosis


There is no evidence to suggest that bats, or their droppings, called "guano", transmit tuberculosis to man.

A usually mild lung disease, Histoplasmosis, is caused by inhaling spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, living in moist bird or bat guano, mostly found in caves.

Bats are dirty and ridden with lice, ticks and fleas


Bats need to keep themselves extremely clean to fly and therefore groom themselves daily. They host no more parasites than other animals, and parasites that do afflict bats are very specialized and rarely pose problems to humans.

The biggest bat in the world has a 2 meter wingspan.


Some of the fruit-eating flying foxes in Central America have wingspans of almost 2m, and weigh up to 1.2kg. The world's smallest mammal, the hog-nosed Bat from Thailand, weighs only 2g.

Bats have no real benefits for people


Worldwide, bats are the major predators of night-flying insects, including mosquitoes and many crop pests.  An individual Mouse-eared Bat from North America can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in an hour!  Closer to home, it has been estimated that the colony of 300,000 bats at De Hoop Cave catch 100 tons of insects a year, including many crop pests, thus providing an important service to farmers in the Bredasdorp area.

Throughout the tropics the seed dispersal and pollination activities of fruit- and nectar-eating bats are vital to the survival of rain forests, with some bats acting as 'keystone' species in the lives of plants crucial to entire ecosystems and some of the world's most economically valuable crop plants such as wild bananas, breadfruit, avocados, dates, figs, peaches and mangoes.

Studies of bats have contributed to the development of navigational aids for the blind, birth control and artificial insemination techniques, vaccine production and drug testing, as well as to a better understanding of low-temperature surgical procedures.

When bats are discovered in a house or office building, they should be exterminated because they are a menace and carry diseases


With increasing urbanisation, many bats have been forced to make use of buildings as natural roost sites are destroyed or made unsuitable for bats. Roof-roosting bats can sometimes be a nuisance in terms of noise at night, the unpleasant odour of the guano and, in some cases, the bats themselves.  Unwelcome Bats should never be killed, there are many safe ways in which bats can be evicted, provided that alternative housing is provided.

Bat houses in a residential neighbourhood will result in undesirable amounts of bats flocking to that area, causing pollution and nuisance to the other residents


Where bat houses in a residential area are suitable and adequate for the species in the area, bats would use them rather than roosting in buildings.  Bat houses should always be used when evicting bats from a building.

Bats in a residential area where mosquitos and other insects cause problems, will considerably reduce their numbers. Farmers may wish to attract bats to roost close to their crops and so aid the farmer in insect and pest control.

There are more than 50 species of bats in South Africa


South Africa has 56 recorded species of bats. Of the 74 species found in the sub region of southern Africa, 20 species of insectivorous bats and 2 species of fruit-eating bats are listed as Threatened in the IUCN Red List of threatened Animals. Of these, 9 are listed as either Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable, meaning that they face a high risk of extinction in the wild.

Worldwide, the 977 species of bats make up a quarter of all mammal species.

All bats have ugly, terrifying looks!


Although some may have odd-looking faces, many are truly pretty and cute! The fruit bats or 'flying foxes' and vesper bats are quite adorable.

Please keep in mind that bats are equipped with incredible anatomical and physiological adaptations for survival. The diverse and elaborate facial features and ears of many insectivorous bats are associated with echolocation.

Trust us - the more you see them and learn about their amazing abilities, the more appreciation and approval one develops for their features!


Now that you know the truth about bats, relax and enjoy their presence in nature. Contribute to their conservation by dismissing the fears of others by educating them with the true facts about bats!

Copyright: GNoR BIG.