BAT OUT O’HELL

No, I don’t have a Jamieson swilling, jig dancing Irish bat but I do have a bat. The mammal with a heartbeat type of bat not the wooden tubes used in baseball. He hangs, literally, inside the wall separating my living room and dining room. This is where my AC unit is and the back-end, the bat end overhangs on the right hand cubby off my semi-circle balcony. How he goes in and out of the thinnest space is mind-boggling, and irritating. I wish I could flatten myself out in such a way and slide in and out of the tiniest spaces. That trick could come in handy for myriad reasons least of all to appease my fondness for eavesdropping.

I relocated here end of April 2009 and since I’m a light sleeper and enjoy the sounds of silence, it was easy to hear his movements and find him. He, I assume he’s a he, has never been a problem. Last year when my best pal and I were sitting outside engaging in one of our marathon chat-fests, he flew like a bat out of hell and scared the hell out of us. Holy Bat Shit, Bat Women.

Taking a deep breath in I announced, “Oh, I have a bat.” Words seldom strung together and used in that context.

I am loath to do anything about “it” you see. The flying freeloader never bothers me with the small exception of commanding a fly by at dusk seeking sustenance. “It” cares not if I’m reclined, reading and enjoying a glass of Rioja on the balcony. Zoom past my head he does mainly due I think, I hope, to the low clearance of the archway. We have not had a collision. So to the new roommate I say, live and let live.

Bats, I’m told are good creatures to have about. They are often thought of as gory and ghoulish due to past and now, ever-present vampires stories but bats are extremely beneficial. They pollinate, disperse seeds and control insect populations, enjoying mosquitoes, YES!!!  It’s okay to keep it right, if it’s beneficial.

I have also been made aware from a survival standpoint, bats are in serious trouble. According to Bat Conservation International http://www.batcon.org, “White-Nose Syndrome” has killed over one million bats since it was discovered in a cave in Upstate New York in 2006. Named for a cold-loving white fungus typically found on the faces and wings of infected bats, White-nose Syndrome causes bats to awaken more often during hibernation and use up the stored fat reserves that are needed to get them through the winter. Infected bats often emerge too soon from hibernation and are often seen flying around in midwinter. These bats usually freeze or starve to death.

Bats are quite amazing. The more than 1,200 species of bats about one-fifth of all mammal species are incredibly diverse. They range from the world’s smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans. Except for the most extreme desert and polar regions, bats have lived in almost every habitat on Earth since the age of the dinosaurs.

I think my guy is a Little Brown Myotis (Vespertilionidae) or in Latin, Myotis Lucifugus. I like a combo of the two names and have decided that he is now a she named Little Luci.

Primary predators of night-flying insects, including many of the most damaging agricultural pests and others that bedevil the rest of us are hunted by more than two-thirds of bat species, and they have healthy appetites. A single little brown bat like Little Luci can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour, while a pregnant or lactating female bat typically eats the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects each night.

2011-2012 is also, the Year of the Bat as proclaimed by the United Nations, not by Chinese Astrologists. There are Adopt-A-bat Programs to help increase their numbers by providing bat habitats. Who knew? With no effort on my part, I am consciously doing what I can to keep these much needed mammals on the planet.

Regardless of whether or not my bat buddy is beneficial or not, she’s staying. I will not mention on dates however, I don’t live alone, I live with a bat. I’m fairly certain it would diminish my odds of a second date and I may get a reputation for being, wait for it, “Batty.”

Canadian Geographic photo, fire-breathing enhancement by Chris Gilroy.

Expressions to do with Bats:

Bats fly by sonar waves and cannot see clearly thus the expression, “Blind as a bat.”

“Bat an eyelid,” has nothing to do with bats and simply means to wink or blink.

“Bats in the belfry” means to be crazy, eccentric.

Since Jacobean times at least, bats have been associated with witches and the occult and therefore thought to originate in the bowels of hell. As they fly and fly quickly as if in panic thus, “Bat out of hell.”