Many people find bats as scary as any made-up monster. After all, bats sleep during the day and are active at night — just like Dracula! Perhaps you've even heard that bats drink people's blood or try to nest in people's hair.
Stories and myths like that have given bats a bad image. In fact, bats are mostly harmless, and they are fascinating. Here are some batty facts:
- Bats are the only mammals that can fly. Some fly as fast as 35 miles an hour.
- Bats sleep upside down, hanging from supports with their strong, sharp claws.
- You may have heard the expression "blind as a bat." But bats aren't blind. Some have excellent vision.
- Many bats also "see" with their ears. As the bat flies, it sends out high-pitched squeaks. The sounds form waves that bounce off anything in the bat's path, creating an echo. The echo tells the bat where the object is, how big it is, and even how fast and where it's moving. This is called echolocation.
- There are nearly 1,100 different kinds of bats. Only three kinds are vampire bats that drink the blood of other animals (but rarely people). They live in Latin America.
- Most bats are insect eaters. A single Little Brown Bat can catch 600 mosquitoes in an hour!
- The largest bats are flying foxes. Some flying foxes have wingspans of more than 6 feet! Most flying foxes eat fruit.
- A female bat usually has just one baby a year. As with other mammals, the baby feeds on milk produced by the mother's body.
- Generally, bats are helpful animals. They eat harmful insects. They help pollinate plants. Fruit bats spread the seeds of plants such as bananas and mangoes. And bat waste, or guano, is a great fertilizer!