by The Old ScottFor some reason, many folks think bats are ugly, and tend to be a little afraid of them. Maybe it's because we have long pictured bats as black (they aren't) and have linked them in our minds with witches and goblins-Halloween stuff, in other words. It's a bad rap, which they don't deserve. Bats are our only flying mammals, and there are many kinds: insect eaters, fruit eaters, and even blood drinkers-but these are found only in a few remote areas, and do not trouble humans, despite Hollywood horror stories about vampire bats. In fact, bats are one of man's best friends, when it comes to controlling the zillions of insects that would otherwise make life out of doors miserable, if not impossible. As for being ugly, there is no such thing in nature. Only another bat would have the right to think a particular bat was ugly-but none ever would, for in all of God's creation, only man has the time or ability to think "ugly." Let's see how this little hunter goes about his business: Your average bat sleeps in most of the day, coming out of his cave or wherever his perch is as evening draws on. While bats are fine fliers, most of them are almost helpless on the ground. Their bodies are not adapted for walking, and their bones are very thin and spindly. Therefore, they sleep hanging upside-down, and drop into a glide from their perches in order to start flying. Once airborne and on the prowl for dinner, the bat turns his echo-locator on by emitting a sound from his throat. This sound is so high-pitched that we could never hear it, but the bat not only hears the sound, he hears its echo when it bounces off a target bug. This is exactly the way a submarine sonar device works-but the bat's sonar would make a Navy sonar operator green with envy. While he is cruising, Mr. Bat sends out a slow low-frequency sound; but when he senses supper up ahead, his sonar kicks into a fast high-frequency range. This helps him zero in on his target, which he constantly ranges with his echo-locator. In this way he swoops down on the mosquito or midge or fly or whatever, even if it tries to evade him. (There are a few species of moths which come equipped with built-in sonar-detectors, and when they sense they are being ranged by a bat's echo-locator they dive for cover-but that's another story.) Coming up to his target, the bat normally scoops it up in his "apron," a thin flap of skin stretched between his hind legs, which then lifts it to his mouth. And just like that, another insect is history. Just one hungry bat may gobble down as many as 500 insects in one night of hunting. During the summer, there may be as many as half a million bats resident in Carlsbad Cavern in New Mexico. Think of how many insects they eat! (While these bats migrate to other caves in Mexico during the winter, other bats live in most parts of the country, wherever they can find food, shelter, and water. Unfortunately, shelter is becoming harder for them to find, as man continues to change the face of nature.) Interestingly, the oldest fossilized bat skeleton ever found looked just like a skeleton of today's bats. They haven't changed. They're still just the way God made them originally. Why should they change? Our Creator made a marvel and a wonder, when He made bats. But all of nature is marvelous, if we can only see it! Job, that grand old man of the Bible, said it best: "But now ask the beasts, and they shall teach you; and the birds of the air, and they shall tell you...Who does not know in all these that the hand of the Lord has created this?" (Job 12:7, 9). Sources: The World of the Bat, Charles E. Mohr, J. B. Lippincott, Phil. & N.Y., 1976. The Mystery of Migration, Robin Baker, ed., Viking Press, N.Y., 1981, p. 177.