Halloween creature myths

Last week I mentioned that it was time to take a bat walk and, with the pleasant weather that much of the country has been having, it might still be possible. Most Bats either migrate or hibernate so anywhere that it is too cold for insects it is too cold for bats. Bats use a lot of energy so as soon as their food supply declines they need to move or conserve energy by hibernating. Here in the south gulf coast, it is still warm and there may well still be bats about. There is a fat juicy dragonfly flitting about even as I type this.

So how did bats come to be associated with Halloween? Probably because it was a nocturnal creature and for no other reason since, in most of the cultures that would originate Halloween, bats would not be out at that time of year. In most of Europe, where the Halloween tradition originates, it would be far too cold at the end of October for bats to be out. Bats do like to nest in attics and dark corners of human houses, most likely because they are warm.

Owls are another creature of the night. Many cultures associate the owl as a harbinger of death. With its silent flight and glowing eyes and haunting calls owls can be spooky things. Owls were supposed to be the only animal that can live with ghosts. When an owl is seen in an empty house, this is a sign that it is haunted. Some cultures believed that witches could turn themselves into owls

Spiders are creatures that often give people a fright. These small little creatures live in dark places and most of them are at worst harmless and at best, quite beneficial. Their soft bodies, long legs and big eyes give them a creepy appearance. Most spiders eat a large number of insects and very few of them are poisonous. The ones that are poisonous to humans pack a punch in their bite and, no doubt, color all their cousins with the same scary reputation. In some culture it is said that if you see a spider on Halloween it could be carrying the soul of a dead relative so it is best not to kill it.

Bats, owls and spiders are all creatures that play an important role in the world. They are important predators to creatures that complete with humans for food, like mice and rats, or are vectors of disease, like insects. While it is fun to pretend to be spooked by these creatures at this time of year, they are good neighbors to us. We need to be likewise to them.

Happy halloween.

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