As Halloween approaches, you’re probably seeing a lot of bats. Whether hanging in school hallways as decorations or displayed in store candy aisles, bats have become a symbol of Halloween spookiness. But do they deserve this reputation?

They’re certainly unique animals. Bats are the only mammals that can fly, yet they spend much of their lives hanging upside down.

Since they are usually only active at night (or dusk or dawn), their flapping wings and interesting faces have long been associated with creepy caves and haunted houses. However, most bat species are completely harmless to human beings.

Many people believe that bats hang out in caves and only come out at night because they are blind. In fact, you may have heard someone use the phrase “as blind as a bat” from time to time.

As it turns out, that is just a myth. Most bats see just fine, and in fact, many bat species have very good vision.

So do bats have super eyes that allow them to see in the dark? Not quite! Although bats do use their eyes to help guide them when they fly, they also use their ears.

If you’re wondering how it’s possible to use your ears to help “see” in the dark, it’s all very scientific. When bats become active from dusk until dawn, they fly around hunting for food. Most bats feed on small, flying insects.

Catching flying insects in the dark is a bit of a challenge, but bats have developed a special way of using sound waves to help them navigate and catch prey. This method is called “echolocation.”

If you’ve ever shouted into a cave or a canyon or even an empty garage, you’ve heard your voice bounce back to you as an echo. When hunting for insects, bats use the power of echoes to help them find food.

Bats emit sounds from their mouths and noses as they fly. These sounds are so high in pitch that they can’t be heard by human ears.

As those sounds bounce off of objects in front of them, such as trees or insects, bats hear the echoes that return. Bats’ brains are able to figure out how long it takes an echo to return.

Using the time of the echo’s return, a bat is able to tell how far away an object is. Believe it or not, bats’ brains are advanced enough that they can also tell where the object is, how big it is and what direction it’s moving in!

It’s a good thing bats are so good at locating insects in the dark. Without them, we’d struggle with more insects than we could handle.

Brown bats — one of the most common species in North America — can eat up to 1,200 mosquitoes in an hour. Colonies of Mexican free-tail bats living in Texas have been known to eat up to 30,000 pounds of insects in a single night!

Not only do these bats get rid of pesky insects, they also provide a valuable service to farmers by eating insects that damage crops.

 

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    • Hi, Abby and Lauren! Thanks for leaving us a comment today! We know bats don’t use actual maps, but we thought naming today’s Wonder that way might inspire our Wonder Friends to think about how bats fly around at dusk and at night and still know where they’re going! We’re glad you visited Wonderopolis today! :-)

  1. I have always loved learning about bats. In fact my family decided to put up a bat house in one of the trees in our yard. I like to head outside when it is dark and watch the bats fly around.

    • That sounds like a lot of fun, TateTEAM! How many bats are flying around when you go outside? We’re sure they appreciate you providing them with a special bat house to live in! :-)

    • You’ll have to check back tomorrow to see if you were right, Jamie! We think you’re super smart for using the clues to predict tomorrow’s Wonder! :-)

    • Hi, Connor! We’re glad you liked the video! We think it is pretty awesome that those caring people dedicate their time and energy to help save the bats and their babies, don’t you? :-)

    • That’s a great thought, JoJo! Thanks for WONDERing more about this Wonder of the Day® and for leaving us another awesome comment! :-)

    • Hi, Abby and Lauren!

      We get LOTS of comments from Wonder Friends all over the world every day! They comment on different Wonders and let us know all the cool things they learn when they visit Wonderopolis. Some friends comment on the current Wonder of the Day®, and some comment on one (or more) of our past Wonders. With more than 375 Wonders to visit, that’s a LOT of comments every day! We want to make sure we answer each comment and give each Wonder Friend the time and respect their individual comments deserve. We’re sorry we didn’t get to answer your comments from yesterday until this morning. We REALLY love getting comments from you and all of our Wonder Friends and hope you keep them coming! :-)

  2. I didn’t know there were so many facts about bats like bats suck on things to get calmed down. It is very interesting. I really like bats and now I know a lot about them.

    • Hi, Reilly! We thought it was interesting to see how much the baby bats in the video liked the same things that human babies do! It was so cute to see them swaddled in their little baby bat blankets! Thank you for visiting this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  3. Awesome! I love learning about bats. I have always thought they were cool.
    I think tomorrow’s wonder is about sweet corn. I have tried it once, and it was really good. YUM!

    • We’re glad you enjoy learning about bats and that you visited Wonderopolis today, Missy! You’ll have to check back to see if you were right about tomorrow’s Wonder. We think you might be surprised! :-)

  4. I love bats. My dad and I really want to set up a bat house, but we just never get time. I want a bat house because the bats can eat all the mosquitoes we have in our yard. My dad and I want to build one of wood and hang in a tree in our backyard.

    • That sounds like a GREAT family project for you and your dad, Sam! We bet the bats would think it was pretty AWESOME, too!

  5. I never really knew that bats were harmless to humans. I didn’t know that bats could tell where an object was, what size it was, and the shape of it! That is amazing!

    • We agree, Hayden…bats are AMAZING creatures! We liked learning all these neat facts about them, too! Thank you for stopping by Wonderopolis today and leaving us a comment! :-)

  6. I think that todays wonder was really cool! I never really paid much attention to bats except for around halloween. I learned a lot of facts and I hope I learn more about them.

    • We think it’s SUPER that you want to learn more about bats now, Luke! We’re also glad you chose to hang out in Wonderopolis today! :-)

  7. I sometimes like learning about bats. Especially when having some questions like, “why do the bats come out at night instead of the day?” I’ve only seen them at this time of year. But sometimes my grandpa sees them at the corner of the porch. He has proof from seeing some bat droppings in the lawn. Now they won’t be seeing the bats for a while.

    • Hello, Josh! Thanks for commenting on this Wonder of the Day® about bats! We really enjoyed reading about your grandpa and his experience with them! :-)

  8. I never knew bats were so interesting. I think it’s great that people are helping fruit bats in Australia from becoming extinct. I liked this wonder of the day. Nice job Wonderopolis.

    • Thanks so much, Ethan! We like getting comments from our Wonder Friends! We, too, think it’s awesome that the people in the video are helping bats when they’re sick or orphaned. It’s very inspirational! :-)

    • They sure WERE cute, cherigurl555! There were a lot of them, too! We think those caregivers are awesome for helping the bats, don’t you? :-)

    • That’s a GREAT question, Firas! Animals are important because they are all part of one or more food chains! Some animals eat plants, and then those animals are eaten by other animals. The plants provide fuel for the lower animals on the food chain, and the lower animals on the food chain provide fuel for the higher animals on the food chain! Humans are at the top of the food chain, so we use animals for many things (food, milk, eggs, clothing, etc.). Animals are SUPER important! :-)

  9. Dear wonderpolis,
    Hi, my name is Moa, and I’m in third grade in Korea. I’m not Korean, but Japenese. I watched the bats and they’re sooooo cute! I like the part when the baby and the mother separate because they’re cute when they cry! I saw the people pet the bats, and now I want to! Bye! I’ll text you again!

    • Hi, Moa! It’s very nice to meet you! Thanks for visiting Wonderopolis today and leaving us this great comment about bats! We think it is AWESOME that we have Wonder Friends all over the world, and it makes us happy every time we get to meet a new one! We agree, the baby bats in the video were super cute! The people taking care of the bats in the video are trained animal caregivers, though, so if you ever see a bat, please don’t get too close to it. Wild animals can be dangerous, especially when they are scared or hurt! Thanks for being a super Wonder Friend! :-)

  10. Thanks for that answer! I do know I can’t go near bats because they can be dangerous, but you can touch them in the zoo if the security lets us right? How many bats are in the world?

    • Hi again, Moa! We’re pretty sure if you’re at a zoo, and there are animal professionals there letting you touch the bats, it would be fine. We just don’t want you getting hurt if you found one in the wild.

      There are LOTS of bats in the world. It would take a LOT more WONDERing to find out just how many! We are lucky that scientists and people like those in the bat video are monitoring bat populations all over the world all the time! :-)

  11. Hi, again!
    Remember me? I think you do! I really love Wonderopolis, so I told my class that I wrote a comment, so everybody wrote a comment in the flag one! Do you know Jiwoo? She is in my class!

    • Of course we remember you, Moa! You are an AWESOME Wonder Friend for sharing Wonderopolis with your classmates! We got to meet Jiwoo today through her comment! Thanks so much for encouraging other kids you know to explore the Wonders of the Day! :-)

  12. That is, ADORABLE! :) Their faces look my dog’s. I’ve always wondered about bats and how they navigate. Great wonder today.

    • Thanks so much for commenting today, Clayton! Your dog must be SUPER cute if he or she looks like those baby bats do in the face, because those baby bat faces are VERY, VERY cute! :-)

  13. You’re a good Wonderopolis friend. You are great at making these videos and information. Great job, Wonderopolis.

    Love your AWESOME friend,
    Moa F.

    I will always give you clues for new wonders!

  14. I’m sorry, but it would be hard to always comment on this bats wonder, so I’ll be on other wonders after you answer me, ok?

    • That’s SUPER, Moa! We’ll always get your comments and we’ll reply back to you! We LOVE getting comments from our Wonder Friends, especially when they share all the great things the learn in Wonderopolis! :-)

    • Hi, Evan! We don’t think bats are evil! We think they are interesting creatures who can teach us a lot if we study them! Thanks so much for your comment today! :-)

    • We think it would be so much fun to dress up as a bat, Sierra! Thanks for letting us know how much you like bats! We’re so glad you found this Wonder of the Day® today, so you could learn some new things about them! :-)

    • We agree, Elizabeth, baby bats are super cute! They are wild animals, though, and need the special care of animal professionals like zoo keepers or the people in the video for this Wonder. We are really happy to hear from you today…thank you for leaving us a comment! :-)

  15. I love bats! I just watched the video for class. I’m in the computer lab searching facts about them. They eat the bugs that makes us itch, that’s why I love them so much. Thanks! :-)

    • They do like to eat those pesky, pestering bugs, don’t they, wonderfan123? That’s just another great fact to share about bats! Thank you for leaving us this comment today! :-)

    • We’re sure you would have made an awesome bat for Halloween, Brianna! We think a bat costume would be super fun to wear! You could be a silly bat, a cute bat or a scary bat (or a combination of all three)! Thanks for sharing how much you love bats! :-)

    • Hi, Sierra! That’s a GREAT question! We’re not sure exactly which season or time of year bats prefer. We think, since they like to hunt and feed on flying insects, that it might be a time of year when those insects are most active. We know we see a lot more bats flying around at dusk in Wonderopolis during the warmer months when the insects are in greater supply! :-)

  16. I think that bats are attracted to me because of the mispronounciation of my legal given name…mistaken for Mexican-Spanish…thus, I am confused since they don’t make a habit of hunting humans but prey upon other animals for food…so I figure that from the insightful Wonder of the day #378, “Do Bats Need Maps?” echolocation of bats must be the explanation; since bats have better hearing from the bouncing sound waves that serve as sight in poor night vision! Maybe I may have had a nightmare about Vampire Bats and I was the prey (or) bats are still hanging around me at night overhead (upside-down).

    • WOW, that sounds like an adventure, Anonymous Wonder! We appreciate that you shared your story with us– we are so lucky to have a Wonder Friend like you! Have a SUPER day! :)

    • WOHOO, we’re glad you enjoyed WONDERing about bats’ sense of direction! We are very happy that you have learned so much today, Jack DW! :)

    • That is a SUPER question from our Wonder Friends in Mrs. S’s class! The rescue teams are trained to look for certain things in the bats to help them recognize healthy and unhealthy bats. We Wonder what those signs are…? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Do bats need maps?
  • Are bats blind?
  • What is echolocation?

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Try It Out

Ready to learn a bit more about the bat we all fear on Halloween? That’s right. We’re talking about the vampire bat!

Like the mythical creature they’re named after, vampire bats do drink the blood of other animals for survival. However, they don’t hunt human beings.

Plus, they live mainly in Mexico, Central America and South America, so there’s no need to fear them if you’re trick-or-treating in the United States.

Check out National Geographic’s Vampire Bats Creature Feature to learn more about vampire bats. You can watch a video of a mother vampire bat with her pup. You can also listen to a recording of the sounds vampire bats make!

 

Still Wondering

Explore National Geographic Xpeditions’ Echoes: What Animals Can Teach Scientists lesson to learn how scientists use sonar to investigate the depths of the ocean.

 

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