Halloween means trick-or-treating, pumpkins, ghosts and of course, bats. While bats are a part of the spooky side of Halloween, this association seems to have given them a bad reputation that they don’t really deserve.
Love them or hate them, bats are vital to the health of our natural world and economy. Although we might not always see them, bats are hard at work all around the world each night – eating tons of insects, pollinating flowers and spreading seeds that grow new plants and trees.
While there doesn’t seem to be a concrete reason that bats are associated with Halloween, the widely accepted theory is dated back to the time of the Celts, as are most Halloween traditions. When they used to light large bonfires on October 31st, the large fires would attract insects and, of course, the insects would attract bats. Since bats swoop around to catch their prey, these dark flying creatures in the night sky at a time the Celts believed the boundary between the dead and living was at its thinnest terrified the Celts, linking bats with all things spooky.
It also didn’t help when bats were first observed lapping up the blood of cattle in Central and South America, thus they were quickly given the label of ‘vampires’ – but there are actually only three species that feed primarily on blood while the remaining 1,300 species feed on insects, rodents and nectar. This vampire label was truly cemented when Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) depicted vampires shapeshifting into bats, forever creating an association with bloodsucking, horror and, you guessed it, Halloween.
Bat Week is an annual, international celebration of the role bats have in nature. Running from October 24th – 31st, it is a time to raise awareness about the need for bat conservation. Bats are in decline across the world and face a multitude of threats including habitat loss, pesticide use and climate change.
These nocturnal hunters are extremely helpful to our ecosystem and can eat up to 1,000 insects (particularly mosquitos and moths) every single night! Bats are also a trusty friend to farmers due to their substantial impact on agriculture – thanks to a bat’s love of gobbling up insects, farmers can use fewer pesticides on their crops.
They help you too, by giving free pest-control in your garden and helping to pollinate your plants, plus, their nightly aerial acrobatics displays are fascinating to observe. To find out how to make your garden bat-friendly and to find out more about these interesting creatures, you can visit batweek.org