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Why Are People Afraid of Bats?

By Chris Williams on July 17, 2014.

afraid of batsPersonally, I’m not afraid of bats but I can understand why others are. Bats have always had a bad rap but, mostly, we like to be afraid of bats, just like we like to watch scary movies.

Many of those scary movies feature bats, and you can find faux bats in almost every haunted house. Their scariness is reinforced at Halloween when we trot out everything that ever scared us as children: ghosts, goblins, zombies, witches, vampires, hatchet murderers, Freddy Krueger…and bats.

Be Afraid, Very Afraid…

If you think about it, there are certain characteristics of bats that can trigger our primal fear response:

  • Bats dress all in black, making them harder to see.
  • Bats are active in the dark; they are creatures of the night.
  • Bats are stealthy, quietly hiding high-up in dark corners as if just waiting to scare us.
  • Bats are unpredictable; we don’t understand their behavior.
  • Bats fly and can swoop in, seemingly out of nowhere.
  • Bats are not very attractive; most have a face only a mother could love.
  • Bats live in caves, which are scary places.
  • Bats live in groups, multiplying the scare factor.
  • Bats have little sharp teeth that replicate the bared fangs of wolves, hyenas, and vampires.

Besides all that, there is the historic fear in our society of bats as carriers of rabies (just 1-5% are infected). Rabies scares us because by the time you find out you have the disease, it’s too late. Rabies kills you. And there are the vampire bats that really do drink blood from cattle. Fortunately, they occur only in Central and South America.

Bats Are Special, Being the Only Flying Mammals on Earth

Bat lovers and bat advocates work hard to try to convince us that bats are not scary or aggressive. Bats really are beneficial animals that eat a huge amount of mosquitoes and other flying insects. Bats are protected by the federal government; it’s illegal to kill bats. Our local bats are endangered right now due to a raging fungal disease, White-nose Syndrome, that is killing them by the thousands.

This doesn’t mean you should cuddle up to bats. They can spread rabies without biting you; simply getting a scratch or coming into contact with their saliva can infect a person. So if you have to handle a bat, wear heavy gloves and handle it gently to release it outside. That bat is more afraid of you than you are of it. Better yet, contact a professional exterminator, like Colonial Pest, that handles nuisance animals. Our pros know just what to do if you have bats in your home. And we’re not afraid of bats.

Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Midwest Region / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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