Goin’ Batty: Dispelling Bat Myths

October 24–31 is Bat Week, an annual celebration of the role bats play in nature. Because most bat species are nocturnal, we may not always see what they’re up to, but they work hard every night – eating insects, acting as nighttime pollinators and more. Celebrate the good bats do to help them shed their misunderstood reputation with the truth behind these common bat myths.

1. Bats are in Ohio year-round

A group of Indiana bats are hibernating in a dark cave.
A group of Indiana bats (Myotis sodalis) hibernate in a cave during winter. (Photo courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)

Though it is the spookiest time of year, you may not see many bats around Cincinnati and Hamilton County right now. Some species, like the silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), have already began migrating to the south. Other bat species hibernate during winter. From late October to early April, many bat species hibernate in caves or attics and buildings. So, they won’t be flying amuck during Halloween time.

2. Bats’ diet consists of only blood

According to the Ohio Division of Wildlife, there are 11 species of bats found throughout Ohio. All of the species found in Ohio are insectivores, or animals that feed on insects, and are either nocturnal or crepuscular (most active at dawn or dusk). In fact, insectivore bats eat many pests like cucumber beetles and stinkbugs.

Some bat species, like the lesser-long nosed bat, are nocturnal pollinators that dine on the nectar of flowers and plants that open at night. While the bat species found in Ohio aren’t nighttime pollinators, these other bat species are just as important; bats are the primary pollinators of agave. Be sure to thank a bat the next time you enjoy a sip of tequila.

3. They are flying rodents

This misunderstanding may come from language differences. The French word for bat is chauve-souris, which means “bald mouse.” In German, bat is fledermaus, meaning “flying mouse.” But bats aren’t even closely related to rodents. The closest evolutionary branch to bats are cats, dogs, bears, horses, pigs, whales and deer, according to the Ohio History Connection.

4. Bats are blind

A big brown bat flies through the night.
The big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) is one of the species found in Ohio and uses echolocation to navigate. (Photo courtesy Ohio Division of Wildlife.)

We’ve all probably heard the phrase “blind as a bat.” While it is true that some bat species have relatively poor eyesight, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources states there is no known bat species that is completely blind. Some bat species use echolocation to “see.”

Bats use echolocation by emitting a call into their environment and listening to the echoes of that call to determine how far away an object is, the size of an object, the shape of the object, and the direction the object is moving. You won’t be able to hear bat echolocation calls though – most echolocation frequencies are above the range of human hearing.

5. Bats aren’t endangered

Indiana Bat mural on the Little Miami Scenic Trail
You can see the full mural celebrating the Indiana bat along the Little Miami Scenic Trail at Newtown Road.

This is a myth we wish were true. The Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis), one of the bat species found in Ohio, is federally endangered and eight other species are listed as threatened or a species of concern by the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

What can you do to help? Get involved this Bat Week! Starting small makes a big difference. Here are some ways you can start at home:

Visit Bat Week’s website for all ways you can take action for our batty friends.

Caroline Wiita
Content Marketing Coordinator