Myth Buster: Bats Aren't Really Blind

Has anyone ever told you you’re as blind as a bat? It turns out it isn’t much of an insult, because bats aren’t really blind. Bats actually have good eyesight. Some bats, including a few species of fruit bats, have exceptional vision, three times better than a human’s.

Contrary to popular belief, bats aren't blind. (Photo via Shutterstock)

The myth that bats are blind may stem from the fact that bats often fly very close to objects, but that's a matter of curiosity more than bad eyesight. And bats don't rely on their eyesight to navigate in flight because they use their echolocation. 


Echolocation is basically sound waves created by bats. The sound waves bounce off objects around the bats then return to their ears, letting them know exactly where trees, structures and even birds and insects are. This is why bats are able to fly so close to objects without hitting them.


Bats use echolocation for navigation and to find food, like insects. We can't hear the sound waves bats use for echolocation because they occur at frequencies higher than humans are capable of hearing.


While we are on the topic of busting bat myths, there's a few others we can put to rest. To start with, bats don't really fly into people's hair and get caught. That's not to say it has never happened, but it's definitely not as common as people believe. Remember, their echolocation helps them zip through the air with without hitting objects, so they aren't going to accidentally fly into someone's head. 


Some myths about bats are rooted in the truth. For example, some bats do drink blood, but not any of the bats that live around Will County or even in North America. Bats that drink blood are called vampire bats, and they live in Central America and South America. Vampire bats prefer the blood of cattle, not humans, although they do bite people on occasion.


Another myth that’s based on the truth is that bats are rabid. Bats can have rabies, but very few actually do. In fact, less than 1 percent of bats have rabies. However, bats that come into contact with humans or are acting strangely are 10 times more likely to be rabid.


If there's any chance you've come into contact with bat saliva, from a scratch, bite or even sleeping in a room where a bat is found, you should contact your medical provider immediately to see if a medical evaluation is needed. 

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