Tuesday 25 October 2011

Happy Halloween!

October 31st rolls around every year, and we know it’s all to do with witches, ghosts, costume parties, pumpkins, and most notably to BCT, bats. But do we know what it actually is all about? Originally, before we all got lazy with pronunciation, Halloween was known as ‘All Hallows Eve’ and referred to the day before All Saints Day. The Celts believed that this was the night that the gap between the human world and the spirit world was weakest, and they built bonfires to keep the evil spirits away. So that explains the ghosts. Jack O’ Lanterns derived from the Irish using light to keep away those who were stuck between life and death, and witches are believed to gather together on this night. Incidentally, if you want to see a witch at midnight on Halloween, you have to wear your clothes inside out and walk backwards all night. Let me know how that goes…

But where do bats feature in this? We’re genuinely not sure. Somewhere along the line they’ve got a reputation of flying around, sucking people’s blood and turning into caped Counts during the daylight hours. None of these are true. Apart from the flying around. I’ll give you that one. Yes, it’s true that there are vampire bats. But what the horror films don’t tell you is that they are no bigger than your hand-span, do not transform into ‘vicked vampires who vant to suck your blood’ and do not actually drink human blood, but cattle blood. Also, they don’t suck. When feeding on cattle they create a small cut in the cattle’s shoulder and lick up the dribbling blood. The cattle barely even notice. Blood sucking fiend and a danger to all human-kind? Hardly. Will they get tangled in your hair? Given the exceptional accuracy of their echolocation, this is almost impossible. Is the bat a useless rodent? (Pause for the audible gasp from the BCT office). Absolutely not. Not only are bats not rodents, but they are incredibly valuable as pest controllers and as pollinators. Some of our favourite things rely on the presence of bats – chocolate and tequila to name just two!

The Bat Conservation Trust assumes the responsibility of correcting all these myths about bats. This year we’ve been to Wildlife Xpo, and Bats and Spiders Weekend to do some myth-busting and raise the profile of bats. We’ve also been busy creating our fundraising packs and planning our Halloween parties. There are piles of crumpled bits of paper littering the office (all to be recycled!) as we come up with ideas, replace them, go back to them, and then start on a completely new theme.( Creativity takes time. And patience.) We’ve got some great ideas, and you know where to find them – our party pack is ready to download and if you need a hand post on our facebook wall. Get those apples covered in toffee, the pumpkins carved, the gingerbread bats baked and the house decorated. The costume looks great, the food is on the table and the guests are on their way. Happy All Hallow’s Eve everyone, don’t let the vampires bite!


  1. Bats have long been associated with Halloween but the connection is by far less ominous than some would suspect. In Halloween's ancient origins people would gather together around giant bonfires to ward off evil spirits. Attracted to the warmth and bright light of these fires were many small flying insects. Natural food for hungry bats. People saw the bats flickering in and out of the firelight during the festivals and they became a feature of Halloween lore.

  2. People we meet are often scared of bats and associate them with all kinds of nocturnal nastiness! The amount of films people have seen featuring bats in a negative roll, has made the wrong impression and will take time to break down.
    We do a lot of work with the Cheshire Bat group and people (kids especially) always stop and ask what we are doing. Its always a great opportunity to give bats some good press.