Halloween gives snakes, bats and spiders a bad reputation

Published 7:20 pm Saturday, October 15, 2016

Halloween is right around the corner and the holiday comes with lots of spooky feelings.

When I think of Halloween, I think about zombies, vampires, bats, spiders, snakes, mummies, ghosts and goblins. While most of the items on that list are fake and fun to get creeped out by, some of those things on that list are real and deserve a better reputation than they have.

Bats, spiders and snakes are often thought about with terror, but that shouldn’t be the case. These are living animals who are not out to “get” anyone. They also play an important roles in our ecosystem. In the spirit of the Halloween season, let’s take a closer look at these creatures.

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Let’s start with bats. A total of 16 different bat species call Kentucky home. While some people think about bats as scary blood-suckers, all of the bats that live in Kentucky are insectivorous, which means they eat insects. While there are species of bats — vampire bats — that drink blood, these species typically get blood from animals like cows and horses and do not live in Kentucky.

Bats eat insects like mosquitoes. That’s something I love, because mosquitoes are not my favorite insect at all. If you see a bat flying around in the dark in Kentucky, think about how cool it is that it’s a little mammal and hope it’s eating some mosquitoes.

Spiders come in many different varieties, most of which are pretty harmless to humans. We do have two species in Kentucky that you should be wary of: the brown recluse and the black widow. But other than those two, spiders don’t pose a threat to humans.

The University of Kentucky has made a chart for easy identification of spiders, which is available online at bit.ly/SpiderChart. This chart will let you tell quickly what kind of spider you may be seeing and let you learn a little more about it.

Spiders just want to make webs and eat bugs, which can be very beneficial for humans. Currently, I have several spiders that have taken up residence just outside of my back door. These spiders are great for catching bugs before they fly into my house. The bugs are attracted to my back porch light, but most of them get caught in the webs before they make it indoors. I don’t let spiders live in my house, but around the outside of my house, they are just doing their job. If I find one indoors, I try to relocate it outside so we are both more comfortable.

I know a lot of people get scared of snakes, but I think they are lovely. I have always been fascinated with snakes. To me, the way the move, eat and smell is all so interesting. There are 33 snake species in Kentucky, four of which are venomous. Our venomous species include copperheads, cottonmouths, timber rattlesnakes and western pygmy rattlesnakes.

Just like with spiders, the University of Kentucky has an online resource that tells you all about the different snake species in Kentucky. You can find it here — bit.ly/KysnakeID. You can search for a snake by physical characteristics or geographic location in order to figure out which species you have seen. You can also separate snakes into venomous and nonvenomous categories.

Every time I have seen a snake in the wild, it quickly flees or freezes and hopes I leave. No snake has never tried to attack me; that’s because snake’s only attack as a last resort if they are threatened. As long as you don’t get too close or try to pick up a snake in the wild, you aren’t really in danger.

I like having snakes in my yard to help control mice and other rodent populations so I don’t end up with rodents in my garage or house.

A lot of people fear the unknown, so hopefully this has helped shed some light on these animals so they don’t seem so creepy or scary this Halloween.

Amanda’s Animal Fact of the Week

Several species of jumping spider can be found in Kentucky. Instead of making webs, these spiders stalk their prey and jump on them.

About Amanda Wheeler

Amanda Wheeler is the children and teen services librarian at the Lincoln County Public Library. She has a master's in zoology education from the University of Miami and has taught as an educator at the Cincinnati Zoo.

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