It’s that time of year again when goblins, ghouls, and zombies seem to be all over the place and Jack o’Lanterns are popping on every porch and door step. It’s Halloween. As a fan of costumes and all things sweet, Halloween is definitely up there in my list of top 5 favorite holidays. However, Halloween seems to shed some pretty nasty light on two animals in particular; bats and spiders. Hopefully this Halloween season I can shed some light on several of the myths and legends surrounding these creatures.
Let’s start with the most traditional of Halloween animals, the bat. Bats have been feared for a long time, all the way back to the Middle Ages because of their nocturnal habits, food preferences, and overall appearance. Even I, an avid animal lover, have to admit that up close even the little guys can be slightly creepy. However, the real reason that people have feared bats, which has been dramatized in the movies, is because of the belief that bats will drink your blood. Although this is true for the Vampire Bat of South American, the majority of bats eat insects (about 70% worldwide). In fact, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife, one little brown bat can eat between 600-1000 mosquitoes in an hour! Along with pest control, bats are also great pollinators and seed distributors for plants all over the world.
With their eight legs, sticky webs, and ability to pop up when you least expect them, arachnophobia (fear of spiders) is a very common fear among individuals. This fear seems to be heavily exploited during Halloween. While it is true that all spiders use venom to immobilize and or kill their prey, for all of the thousands of spider species out there, only about a dozen have venom powerful enough to hurt a human. Most spiders have venom that is specialized for their prey, and since no spider to date specializes in humans, we have little to fear from the majority of spiders on the planet. Just like bats, these animals provide us with 24/7 pest control and should be celebrated rather than feared.
A common theme among both these animals and their myths is fear of the unknown. This Halloween take some time to look at animals, insects, and whatever else scares you and learn a little something about them, their history, and lives. In doing so you just might find a new sense of respect for the organism in question and, hopefully, a dissipation of some of your fears.