How Did Bats Become Associated with Vampires and Halloween?
It is now October, and with it comes all things spooky and scary. It seems as if, overnight from September 30 to October 1, the world breaks out in an infestation of spiders, bats, goblins, ghosts, ghouls, and the rest of their icky ilk.
The season got me thinking about spiders recently, which inspired my previous post: What Can Spider Silk Be Used For?
(I reached out to Spiderman for a comment on the piece, but alas, none has been forthcoming.)
It also got me thinking about bats. At UPC, we love bats! These much-maligned creatures are nature’s pest control and can eat tens of thousands of mosquitos, gnats, and other flying pests each night.
In fact, the 1.5 million bats that live under the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas, eat roughly 30,000 pounds of insects each night! So if you happen to see bats in your yard, please don’t chase after them with a broom or net, or harm them in some other way.
I’ll have to write a more comprehensive “Why Bats Are Awesome” post later. For now, I wanted to find an answer to the question that popped into my head more recently:
How did bats become associated with vampires and Halloween?
Well, I suppose it comes down to the adage: one bad apple ruins the bunch.
There are just 3 species of bat known as the “vampire bat,” found only in Mexico and parts of Central and South America, which feeds primarily on the blood of livestock. These nocturnal creatures use their razor-sharp teeth to bite their prey while they sleep, and then “lap” up the blood as a cat does milk. They don’t “suck” blood, as they are often portrayed to do.
(Note that the remaining 1,300 bat species feed only on insects, fruit, and nectar!)
Vampires themselves have existed in the mythology and folklore of many cultures across the world for thousands of years. When the late 15th and 16th-century Spanish explorers in Central and South America first observed the blood-lapping bats, they labeled them “vampire” because of their diet. (Florida Bat Conservation Centre)
However, it wasn’t until the 1897 publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that the connection between vampires and bats was cemented.
“While he was working on his novel in the 1890s, Stoker came across a clipping in a New York newspaper concerning vampire bats which directly influenced the following comment by the character Quincey Morris:
“I have not seen anything pulled down so quick since I was on the Pampas and had a mare … One of those big bats that they call ‘vampires’ had got at her during the night and … there wasn’t enough blood in her to let her stand up.”
(Florida Bat Conservation Centre)
Evidently, however, Stoke wasn’t too terribly concerned with accurate research while he was spinning his yarns.
Vampire bats are quite small, with a 3.5-inch long body and a wingspan of just 7 inches. They weigh in at a minuscule TWO OUNCES, though according to National Geographic, this can double during a feeding—to a whopping 4 whole ounces.
Enough to nearly drain a full-sized horse? I think not, Mr. Stoker. (They also do not turn into vampires…)
Sadly, the damage to these mammals as a group was done. The wild popularity of the book (and later movie) forever forged the connection between vampires and bats.
Fortunately for we Floridians, vampire bats do not exist in our area, so the only ones you’ll see around here are the helpful kind…and this month, the two-legged costumed variety, asking for candy.
(Oh, and if you do have bats on your property and have questions about them, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at 386-673-1557. We’re happy to help.)
Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.
Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest ControlTags: bats, fun