Bats do an excellent service to the world and also to humankind. Bats keep annoying pests away. They pollinate plants that we use for food and medicine. Bats help replant forests that humanity has destroyed through deforestation and fires. Through medical and ecological research, bats have provided us with information that has saved ecosystems and lives. Yet, bats are still loathed and feared rather than loved and revered. Find out more about the history of bats and why some people continue to perpetuate a fear-based concept of these winged, nocturnal creatures.
A History of Fear
The fear of bats started about the same time as people began fearing evil spirits. The Irish festival Samhain celebrated the harvest and was an early precursor to the current Halloween holiday. As revelers danced around the fire at night, bugs and insects were also drawn to the light. Bats swooped in and expertly completed pest control by eating their fill of bugs. Party-goers, rather than being thankful, were terrified. They did not know what bats were doing since it was dark. Because they were also engaging in some light spirit conjuring, they thought bats might be the evil spirits that come to harm. Since then, bats have been fighting for their good name in the history books.
The truth in the story is that bats are nocturnal animals, and they are active and feed at night. Only a few species of bats are sanguineous, and they prefer animal blood. The bats were doing the people a favour. However, the people couldn’t quite see the bats. And since people have a healthy fear of the unknown already, bats got lumped right in.
But the Irish and the Celts aren’t the only ones whose opinions about bats were not so great. Other cultures have had similar lore since early civilizations. Mayans recognized the Death Bat God, known as Camazotz. Native Americans have Evaki, the goddess responsible for the sun and the moon; while not fearful, this history does play into the bats being in control of darkness.
Dracula Strikes Again
Whether through Nosferatu or Twilight or Count Dracula, or even the Count on Sesame Street, the perpetuation of vampire bats as blood-sucking super predators is still strong. Many books, movies, and tv shows have been made famous from this same storyline dragged on for over 2,500 years. Not only are most vampires depicted as having the ability to turn into bats, but they are also unusually hyper-sexual. This detail combines with the history of the Roman religion when it tried to stifle Samhain; the bats survived, and so did their sexuality. In truth, bats are most active during the summer and fall months for breeding and feeding. Mating is less hyper-sexual than simply the natural season of reproduction for the bat before it enters hibernation.
Bats Now and in the Future
Bats are not having the best time in the media right now. It’s truly an unfair depiction because, if left to their habitats and natural duties, bats would be very happy doing their jobs serving the world and the greater good of humankind. When the natural order is interrupted, bats catch the flack.
People who suffer from the effects of a phobia of bats are chiroptophobic. People who have this fear may experience life-altering responses to the mention, sight, or thought of bats. While bats pose little to no harm to humans, many people who experience phobias experience genuine biological responses to triggers that may not exist. This phobia may stem from trauma that a person experienced during an interaction with a bat or not. Phobias can also be a reaction to any trauma, whether or not it is related to the specific trigger phobia.