© 2023 WSHU
NPR News & Classical Music
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Bats are nothing to fear! It’s the thought of losing them that’s scary

This photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September 2022 shows tricolored bats.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
This photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in September 2022 shows tricolored bats.

Bats are one of a few animals associated with Halloween. But Connecticut environmentalists want residents to know these flying predators are nothing to fear! It is the possibility of losing them that is truly scary.

More bat facts:

  • Bats are the world’s only flying mammals.
  • There are over 1,400 species of bats, making them the second largest group of mammals.
  • Bats can live to around 30 years in the wild. The oldest known bat lived to 41.
  • “Blind as a bat” is not the most accurate idiom. Their vision is fine, however they rely more on echolocation.
  • Bats will not try to fly into someone’s hair -- this is just a myth! They have no incentive to get close to humans.

A disease called white-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats across the country. It is caused by an invasive fungus that thrives in caves, and can grow on bats while they’re in hibernation. Now, five different kinds of bats are on Connecticut’s endangered species list.

Devaughn Fraser is a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“Their metabolisms are shut down. All the immune system processes that would help them fight this pathogen when they’re awake are shut down,” she said. “So they’re very susceptible to this fungus colonizing their skin.”

Females can have only one pup a year, which is why a full population recovery from white-nose syndrome could take decades.

Fraser said a healthy bat population plays an important role in the ecosystem, as well as the state’s agriculture industry.

“In the absence of bats, you have this absence of natural pest control, which then increases our reliance on less savory methods, such as pesticide use.”

A single colony of big brown bats can eat roughly 1.3 million insects a year. That is about 9,000 per bat.

To raise awareness, Connecticut is celebrating Bat Week, which began on Tuesday and ends on Halloween.

“Bats are severely misunderstood,” Fraser said. “They’re incredibly diverse animals, they have unique behaviors that we are continuously learning more about.”

Bats can be spotted anywhere in the state, but many colonies make their homes in barns. Reporting sightings to DEEP will help state biologists track the health of the populations.

For a closer look, visit the Bats Count! Bat Cam on DEEP’s website, live streaming a big brown bat colony at White Memorial Conservation Center in Litchfield.

Sabrina is host and producer of WSHU’s daily podcast After All Things. She also produces the climate podcast Higher Ground and other long-form news and music programs at the station. Sabrina spent two years as a WSHU fellow, working as a reporter and assisting with production of The Full Story.