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MARTHA SEZ: In defense of bats and spiders

October 30, 2009
MARTHA ALLEN
Most Halloweens I defend the rather murky reputation of bats in this column.


    I must admit bats are rather hideous, grotesque little gargoyles when you see them close up. Ever since my daughter Molly helpfully pointed out that I place far too much emphasis on looks, which I naturally denied, scenarios keep cropping up that almost make it seem as if she were right, whereas in actual fact, in the case of bats, I am able to clearly perceive their ugliness and yet still entertain positive feelings for them.


    Bats are among that group of flying, swooping creatures that terrify so many people with their unpredictable aeronautical antics. My sister is one of those people. Even the common moths that bat themselves to death against porch lights in the summer strike panic into Sissy’s heart, so I can only imagine how she must feel about bats.


    Still, as we know, bats are our friend. They eat huge meals of mosquitoes on warm evenings and hardly ever live up to their reputation, previously hinted at, of entangling themselves in people’s hair whilst at the same time biting and spreading rabies. The little brown bats that live in the Adirondacks do not suck blood, either, so it is unfair to class them with the ubiquitous vampires popularized by novelists and filmmakers this year.


    You can hardly turn around without tripping over a vampire these days. This Halloween there will be at least one on every street corner, wait and see.


    I don’t care for them that much myself because, although they are extremely good looking, they are actually about 100 years old, from Europe mostly, dating American high school students. That’s just not right, I say.


    Plus, they all have violent tarnished pasts during which they hunted human prey and drank their blood, even if some of them tell their teen-aged sweethearts that they have sworn off and are now in recovery.


    I certainly do not approve of vampires dating our young people, but you can’t tell teenagers anything, especially once they fall in love.


    No, vampires are not the kind of bats I’m talking about. The kind of bats I try to defend are the regular Adirondack kind, namely little browns. Let’s not tar them with the same brush.


    This year is different, because instead of sticking up for the little browns who get into people’s houses against big hulking homeowners who traditionally leap around trying to clobber them with tennis rackets, I am wringing my hands over a plight that affects many more of the little insectivores. I’m talking about the white nose fungus disease that has so depleted our bat population. I am helpless in the face of it. All I can do is hope that they’ll emerge from hibernation this coming spring with renewed vigor.


    Spiders and their webs are another popular Halloween decorating theme. While I refuse to kill spiders, I do find them pretty creepy. Fear of spiders may be instinctive in humans. In the early fall we see these giant orb-spinning spiders on the outside of houses, and, while we should be feeling nothing for them but gratitude, I suppose, since they eat some of the harmful and irritating insects left behind by the afflicted little browns, before these insects can get into our houses —still — it is difficult to stifle our natural feeling of revulsion, especially when the spiders might conceivably get on us and crawl around.


    Scary! There is a particularly out-sized spider who lives in the upper corner of the garage door frame, and when its web is disturbed it runs down to see whether it has netted some feckless bug. Whenever I go near it I whisper a little mantra, “No spider surprise. No spider surprise,” which has worked so far.


    Although not a Halloween standby, the monitor lizard is to my mind a particularly disgusting and unpleasant creature. Monitors have infested the Florida Everglades, where they mate right on people’s lawns in broad daylight and produce big clutches of eggs, which all hatch, and so on, so that there are more and more of them every day. They get to be six feet long and eat people’s pets and bite people, and no doubt would be happy to eat small children, given the chance.


    I bet we’ll be seeing a lizard or two this Halloween as well. At least they don’t date high school cheerleaders, probably because they — the monitors— are so ugly.





    Happy Halloween!
 
 
 

 

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