It is clear that despite my long-standing personal “hands off” policy toward nature, I am destined to go down in history as one of those people forever identified with a certain species of animal.
Jane Goodall had her chimps. Steve Irwin had his crocodiles. Me, I have bats. Oh, I don’t want to have bats mind you. It’s never been my lifelong dream to become “the bat lady.”
Honestly, I wasn’t even all that keen on Batman as a superhero. I was always a Robin girl. Why couldn’t robins love me? Robins are cool. Cute even. Robins don’t, to my knowledge, carry rabies. A girl could do a lot worse than to be plagued by robins.
Instead, since moving into this particular old house, I have become a bat girl. People know, and identify me, as such. My mother has reported that acquaintances say: “I love your daughter’s bat stories!”
A former classmate recently contacted me and her opening note was “I read your column regularly and always enjoy imagining you and the bats!” Now what am I to make of that? Is that a friend — or foe — sort of comment?
Oh sure, I tried to put on a brave face and make light of my batty reputation. I am all about the PR. To hear me tell it, bats are the best things since sliced bread.
“There ain’t no bugs on me!” I say loud and proud. Then I run inside and check, yet again, to make sure all my screens are tight because, truth be told, who wouldn’t prefer a bug in the bedroom to a bat?
It’s true, however, that we have almost no mosquitoes around our yard. Our friends comment on this. The ones who stay long enough to wait out the nightly bat launch, that is.
When patio-side visitors show alarm at the sudden swooping and flapping between the house and barn, I first try to deny: “What? Swooping? Where? I don’t see any swooping?” This, however, is hard to carry off when you are cowering under a patio table while speaking.
I then go for species denial. “Oh the SPARROWS?” I say. “They’re cute aren’t they?” Few are fooled. Finally, I go for acceptance and a certain jazzy embrace of the entire thing.
“Oh, bats? Yes they are! Thank you for asking. Such a blessing. You know we have no bugs out here? So organic too!”
Forced to weigh the pros and cons between chemical laden bug repellent and rabies, our good friends gamely soldier on. “Sure, yeah, no bugs, great. Honey, get the car …”
The general consensus on bats is spotty. Numerous Web sites warn of the dire threat posed by bats. Apparently, they carry a host of disease (what in nature doesn’t, really?) and even their droppings are toxic.
Did you know if a bat is found to have been loose in an area where a human is sleeping and said bat is not captured and tested for rabies, that some writings suggest those humans should automatically receive rabies vaccinations as a precaution?
This is because bats, apparently, have such tiny razor sharp teeth that you could be bitten and NOT EVEN KNOW IT! Bats, to read about them, are like tiny, dangerous serial killers who lie in wait for their chance to sneak in and polish you off.
In the next breath, however, we are warned to never just willy-nilly exterminate bats (the other bats will know and they will not be pleased!) No, we are told to relocate them. We are even provided plans for bat penthouses and condos so they can live nearby but not with you.
Bats: they’re like the in-laws of the animal world. Meanwhile, I am gaining a reputation as the bat lady. A very unwanted reputation, mind you, but one I cannot seem to shake.
Some people seem to go their whole lives without ever having a bat in their home. Me, no matter how tightly I think we’ve sealed the house, a few have gained entry over the years. In fact, there has been a bat flying around my third floor dormer for the past few nights. It’s like he’s just waiting for me to crack a window.
Worse, the other night my daughter and I stepped out onto the patio after dark. We had a moment of “awe” when pointing to a large toad we noticed poolside. This quickly turned into a moment of “aargh” when the “toad” began flapping it’s wings and thrashing about on deck.
The “toad” was, in reality, a bat. A seemingly wounded bat. A bat lying in wait for us right there by the back door.
There is only one way to take this my friends and I, for one, am not fooled. The bats are now mounting a ground assault.
(Kymberly Foster Seabolt has noted that bats cannot swim. She welcomes comments, commiseration, and bat removal advice c/o firstname.lastname@example.org; http://kymberly.typepad.com/life; or P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)