Bats, Bayous, and Halloween

Reasons to Love Bats

Oct. 31, 2019

 

Today is All Hallows Eve, which is, believe it or not, associated with the coming of winter, which is associated with death. In other places where they have seasons, that means trees, for instance, lose their leaves and appear to die. Scary and strange. But they come back! That’s one reason Easter happens in the spring.

Halloween is also associated with bats. And today is the last day of Bat Week. And since bats are also associated with rivers, and we have many bats here in Houston on our bayous, we thought we’d talk about bats.

A Bat Rap

Bats are extremely beneficial for insect control (most importantly eating tons of mosquitoes here in Houston) as well as for pollination, like bees and hummingbirds. In the tropics they carry fruit and nut seeds. We need bats.

Bats are associated with Halloween because they are nocturnal, because of vampires and Dracula. But there are over a thousand species of bats and only a few of them actually feed primarily on blood. We have eleven species of bats in Houston (thirty-one in the entire state) and none of them are so-called vampire bats. Also, almost none of them have rabies (less than estimated one percent), though it’s always best not to try to touch wild animals.

Bats on the Bayou

The Mexican free-tailed bat can fly almost 100 miles per hour. Photo by Ron Groves

Bats generally roost near sources of water, like a stream or river, which is why we have bats on the bayou hanging out under bridges, as well as under roofs, in trees, and other places nearby.

As Houston Audubon points out, the best known bat in Texas is the Mexican/Brazilian free-tailed bat, which is officially our state flying mammal. This is the bat that lives under the Waugh Street Bridge near Allen Parkway, attracting crowds of people to watch the colony emerge at dusk in search of moths, mosquitoes and other insects to eat, flying as fast as 100 miles per hour and as high as a 1,000 feet in the air to gobble up tons of insects. Hawks and falcons, too, circle overhead, diving into the colony to capture a meal.

More Information

Save Buffalo Bayou board member and canoe guide Tom Helm offers a sunset float trip on Buffalo Bayou to view the bats.

How to build your own bat house or encourage bats for natural mosquito control.

 

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