Kentucky Dept. of Fish and Wildlife Resources News Release
Kentucky Afield Outdoors: Spiders and bats are
Halloween spooks, but actually benefit people
Oct. 15, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Hayley Lynch
1-800-858-1549, ext. 4493
Frankfort, Ky. – Halloween abounds with images of creepy, crawly critters
and spooky ghosts, witches and black cats. Two common themes are bats and
spiders. Both of these critters make most people cringe. But they also benefit
“Spiders play a tremendous role, probably more than any other animal
group on earth, in controlling insect populations,” explained John MacGregor, a
biologist in the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources’ wildlife
diversity program. “Most people just don’t like them – probably because they
have more than two legs.”
Despite a spider’s unsettling appearance, people are probably more
comfortable with spiders around. Consider a walk in the woods. Many hikers hate
accidentally walking through a spider web. But that hike could result in far more
insect bites if the eight-legged creatures weren’t nearby.
“Members of the orb-weaver family spin those webs that catch people’s
faces. They also control flies and mosquitoes around the trail,” MacGregor said.
“I’d rather have some spider web on my face than mosquitoes and deer flies on
Despite their benefits, people should be cautious around the brown
recluse, black widow and sac spiders, all of which are common in Kentucky.
“All spiders are venomous, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s how
they subdue their prey,” said MacGregor. “But there are some groups that have
pretty serious bites.”
To keep the leggy critters outside where they belong, maintain your
house’s weather stripping and make sure windows are shut tightly. According to
MacGregor, spraying insecticide does little to control spiders around your home.
But your house should harbor few spiders if it is kept weather-tight.
Another symbol of Halloween is the seemingly spooky bat. Many myths
abound surrounding this creature.
“People think they all have rabies,” said Traci Hemberger, also a wildlife
diversity biologist with Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “But the incidence of rabies in
bats is about one-half of one percent.”
Hemberger said it’s also a common myth that bats get in people’s hair and
even lay eggs. A lot of people think they are birds. Bats are flying mammals,
however, and therefore do not lay eggs. People sometimes believe that bats feed
on blood. However, only three of the world’s more than 1,000 bat species do so.
Those bats feed on the blood of animals, not humans, and the species don’t
even occur in the United States.
Also, bats don’t attack humans as some people think. It’s more a matter of
people being in lighted places at night.
“Insects hang out around light sources at night, so this attracts bats,” said
Hemberger. “Bats have erratic flight when they’re catching insects, so that
Before you wish those swooping creatures away, however, remember that
a bat can eat 3,000 pesky, biting bugs in a single night. They eat fruit and spread
seeds throughout tropical rainforests. They pollinate and maintain the genetic
diversity of bananas, cashews and figs in the wild. In fact, bats are so important
that an outbreak of white-nose syndrome in the northeastern United States is
causing major concern among biologists.
“We’ve lost over a million bats in the northeast over the last few years, and
the disease seems to be coming down this way,” said Hemberger. “They say you
don’t appreciate something until it’s gone. We’d have a lot more insects if it
weren’t for bats.”
So this Halloween, when you see spooky bats or creepy spiders adorning
someone’s house, remember that these species are actually beneficial to us.
Though shadowed in myth and misconception, they play their own important part
in our world.
Author Hayley Lynch is an award-winning writer and associate editor for
Kentucky Afield magazine, the official publication of the Kentucky Department of
Fish and Wildlife Resources. She loves deer hunting, shotgun sports and
introducing women to the outdoors.
(Editors: Photos are available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.)
-30The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources manages, regulates, enforces and
promotes responsible use of all fish and wildlife species, their habitats, public wildlife areas
and waterways for the benefit of those resources and for public enjoyment. Kentucky Fish
and Wildlife is an agency of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. For more information on
the department, visit our web site at fw.ky.gov.