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Bats: “Bats drink on the wing, like swallows, by sipping the surface as they play over pools and streams.” — Gilbert White

“Mom, dad, there’s a butterfly in my room.”

Our daughter, aged 3, was standing at the top of the stairs, looking more amused than concerned.

When I arrived at the bedroom door, the “butterfly” whizzed past me, its wings making that eerie flapping and fluttering sound unique to a brown bat.

I ducked, then went looking for a broom or any kind of weapon to rid our home of a pest whose place should be limited to haunted houses on Halloween, not our home.

Yes, bats eat many times their weight in mosquitoes every evening.

And I know – or I have been led to believe – that all of those stories about bats being prominent carriers of rabies are old wives’ tales. Research advises that bats aren’t more likely to carry rabies than any other mammal.

But of all of God’s creatures, bats rank right up there with snakes and spiders on the creepiness chart. Why else are they featured so regularly in horror stories, or as alternative life forms in vampire films? Describing them as flying mice is too kind, though some of the smaller versions qualify. Not so with the gold-capped fruit bat, with a wing span of more than five feet.

I’ve never understood how Batman could be so popular with kids.

On summer nights at the home place in Lyman County, the nocturnal creatures fly from the top of the hayloft door around dusk, gobbling up bugs with each swoop. The yard light illuminates their activity and does so to this day.

Bats have been in the news lately because of the white-nose syndrome, a fungal growth that kills them when they are hibernating. The National Park Service reported recently that the fungus was found in the Badlands National Park, the first incident in South Dakota. The disease has killed millions of bats in North America since it was detected in 2006.

The bat that left our daughter’s room that evening disappeared somewhere in the house. I searched the basement, the attic and everywhere in between, armed with a tennis racket.


A few days later when we had company at our home, the children cried out from upstairs and sure enough, the bat careened down the stairwell. This time I was ready, and an awkward forehand brought the creature to rest on the living room floor. He didn’t seem threatening at all. I picked him up with a shovel and deposited him outdoors.

He never returned.

Aug. 1, 2018