Chiroptophobia, the Fear of Bats

Phobias are constant, irrational fears that afflict some people. Their fears should be taken seriously. They should never be made fun of or belittled. But, as writers, we can bless (or curse) our characters with phobias and make the story so much more interesting.

Townsend's big-eared bat, wikipedia

Townsend’s big-eared bat, wikipedia

What happens if someone encounters the object of their fear? They could feel dread, nausea, or breathlessness. They could sweat excessively or lose the ability to think or speak clearly. They could lose control and become angry. Detachment from reality is a possibility as is a full-blown anxiety attack.

Chiroptophobia is the fear of bats. Most people think of bats as flying rodents, but bats are not rodents. They are mammals. Bats are thought to carry disease, and because of vampire stories, it is thought that any bat wants to suck your blood.

vampire bat, flickr

vampire bat, flickr

The Vampire Bat
There are more than nine hundred species of bats in our world, and blood is not part of the diet of the majority of them. Their diet consists of small insects, flowers, nectar, pollen, leaves, and fruits. The only bat that “sucks” blood is the vampire bat, and it doesn’t actually “suck” the blood out of the animals, mostly cattle and deer, that it likes to feed off of. They lick the blood from a V-shaped cut they make on the animal.

One situation in which a vampire bat would approach you to lick, not suck, your blood is for you to be in a country where vampire bats dwell. You would have to be sleeping outside on the ground with part of your skin exposed. In this situation, you may be in danger of having a bat sneak up on you, bite you, and lick the blood that comes out of the wound. Otherwise, you are perfectly safe. And neither you nor any animal the vampire bats feeds on would turn into a vampire.

Vampire bat saliva does have its benefits though. Watch the below video to discover what those benefits are.

How Bats Help Mankind
Bats are more help to mankind than most realize. They pollinate some plants, and they eat mosquitoes and other bugs. I especially like it that they eat mosquitoes. If not for bats, our world could be overrun by bugs.

a cat cleaning itself, wikimedia commons

a cat cleaning itself, wikimedia commons

Maybe you think bats are dirty, nasty creatures. That is a myth. Bats clean themselves just as often if not more often¬†than cats clean themselves. The plethora of vampire movies and books have greatly added to people’s fear of this flying mammal.

Echolocation, the sonarlike system used by dolphins, bats, and other animals to detect and locate objects by emitting usually high-pitched sounds that reflect off the object and return to the animal’s ears or other sensory receptors, is how bats “see” at night.

Egyptian fruit bat, wikipedia

Egyptian fruit bat, wikipedia

Cute Bats
Super cute bats do exist. The six-inch-long Egyptian fruit bat is one of them. This small bat has an impressive wingspan of about two feet. This bat, believed to be the most vocal of all bat species, can be found in Africa, India, and Pakistan.

The lesser short-nosed fruit bat can be found in areas across southern Asia. The short fur on this cute little bat ranges in color from grayish brown to yellowish brown. Its face reminds one of an adorable puppy dog. As you have probably figured out from its name, this bat’s diet consists of fruit.

The brown long-eared bat has Dumbo ears as does the split-nosed bat.

The dwarf epaulleted fruit bat to me looks just like a flying mouse.

The flying fox, with its huge wingspan that is like a cloak, could make one think of a vampire, but this pollinator feeds on fruit.

Collective Nouns for Bats
The only two “official” collective nouns for bats that I could find are a cloud of bats and a colony of bats. The rest of the collective nouns below came from mine and my daughter’s imagination.

Brebu monastery belfry, wikimedia commons

Brebu monastery belfry, wikimedia commons

a belfry of bats – A belfry is a bell tower usually found at the top of a church. It is common for bats to hang out in belfries, so I though a belfry of bats would be an awesome collective noun for these animals. Also, “bats in the belfry” is an idiom that talks about someone who acts as though they have bats flying around in their head.

 

flying fox, wikimedia commons

flying fox, wikimedia commons

a cloak of bats – If you look at pictures of the flying fox, you will notice its huge black wings. When one or more of these bats fly through the air, it appears that they are flapping huge cloaks instead of wings. Even when the flying fox just has its wings wrapped around itself, it looks like a cloak.

a cloud of bats – Besides being a visible collection of particles of water or ice suspended in the air, a cloud is also a great number of insects, birds, or bats flying together.

a colony of bats – A colony is a group of the same kind of animals living together.

a stealth of bats – Vampire bats are what came to mind when I thought of this one. I doubt that cows, deer, or any other animals would invite vampire bats to cut them and lick up their blood, so the bats would have to use stealth and sneak up on them.

a tangle of bats – There is a myth that bats will tangle themselves in your hair. I’m sure bats have become tangled in someone’s hair by mistake before, but they do not do that on purpose. I mean, how comfortable do you think that would be for the bat? I’m sure it would be just as terrified as the unlucky person whose hair it was tangled up in.

Writing Prompts
See how many unique collective nouns you can come up with for bats. Pick one that you created or one of the collective nouns above and write a story around it.

girl writing, etc.usf.edu

girl writing, etc.usf.edu

Perhaps someone who has chiroptophobia is so afraid of bats that even the mere mention of them throws them into a full-blown panic attack. How would this person function in the world today?

If your character had chiroptophobia and he was surrounded by bats, how would he react? Would he be able to overcome his phobia enough to escape?

Write a story for children about a family of bats and how what they do benefits the people whose land they live on.

You could also write a horror story. Have someone with chiroptophobia trapped inside a cave full of staring vampire bats. How did this person end up in this cave? Did he wander in by mistake? Or was he thrown in there by someone? Why is he trapped? Has the exit been blocked by a rock slide? Or was it blocked off by the one who threw him in there?

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Weather Phobias
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