Saturday, August 13, 2011


Last night was Perseids night--we had our lawn chairs out, the full moon's light blocked by the garage at our backs. The mosquitoes, our state bird, were scarce enough that we had not slathered on whatever state-of-the-art organic compounds we use to ward off 6-legged critters these days.

Joe Westerberg, Joshua Tree National Park, California, Aug. 11, 2007

We saw a bat, a welcome sight. Then two. Now a third.

We held still, lying on our chairs, watching the bats chase bugs and each other, a spectacular aerial show against the deep gray-violet of the late dusk sky. And we realized that, really, the mosquitoes were remarkably scant.

A bat swooped up from the ground by our feet, no doubt, munching away. We watched the acrobats flip from their invisible trapezes a few more moments, then one swooped inches from our heads.

Now we know that bats tangling in your hair is an old wives' tale, but the few mosquitoes buzzing about our heads was tempting enough to the bats to show off their aerial skill a tad too close, and as much as we appreciated their predation, we scurried back inside.

Though we missed the main event, the Perseids changed our world in subtle ways:

  • A few of my red blood cells gulped by a mosquito (or two) ended up in the belly of a bat, now broken down into tiny pieces. Some of it will become part of that bat, some released as carbon dioxide in the bat's breath, possibly captured by the Brussels sprouts nearby, which I will eat after November's first frost.

The meteor photo was taken by Joe Westerberg, lifted from, used with permission.


Jenny said...

Old Wives' Tale? Are you sure? As a teenager my sister got a bat tangled in her hair as she sat with the choir one Sunday morning in church. She stayed totally calm about it. At the time I felt really bad for my sister. Looking back, I feel pretty bad for that poor bat. I don't know how or why it got into our church but I'm sure it wasn't where it really wanted to be.

doyle said...

Dear Jenny,

Maybe not--I'm not sure because I had a similar experience when a bat buzzed my (then) ridiculously long and unkempt mane as I was running one night back when I still had most of my hair.

I thought maybe it was just a freak accident, that the bat was just buzzing for bugs, but maybe the idea that it is just an old wives' tale is the old wives' tale.

A bat flying around the daytime in church may have been rabid, no?

Heck, maybe I can get some NIH money to test this. =)

Anonymous said...

I quite love bats, even though they are often feared and frowned upon as house guests. I had never heard a tale about them being tangled in hair, though I can attest to the fact that pretty nearly anything can be ensnared in the right hair. (Mine, for instance.)

I really enjoy the way you connect all the little bits of the universe together. :)

Kate T said...

I sat on our back porch the other night and watched the bats diving for bugs. I am always delighted when we have bats. They let me know that my yard/garden ecosystem is healthy.

We've raised a healthy crop of mosquitoes this year, too.

Unknown said...

I've always loved bats and I get excited when they stick around our suburban neighborhood (a lot of people don't believe me when I say that there are bats out in the desert). The craziest part of the old wive's tales is the number of people who think there are rabid bats who will attack. Not sure where that one came from, but it's had some sticking power.