Seeing as bats were my favourite childhood animal, and having previously studied bats for my BSc zoology research thesis, I was shocked when a nationally representative survey of 1000 UK adults I conducted suggested that bats were unpopular. So unpopular that they were voted the third least favourite mammal in the UK, after rats and mice. What do people really think about bats? Is it all negative? Well it is my intention to eliminate the common misconceptions and negative attitudes  surrounding these fascinating and beautiful animals.

Overall, 1 in 5 people either dislike or hate bats. The top two regions which dislike bats were the North East (26%), followed by London (21%).  Females (22.3%) dislike bats more than males (15%), and are also more likely to be afraid of bats.

So why do so many people dislike bats?

The top 5 reasons people don’t like bats

1. ‘ I am scared of them’ – 60% of young adults (18-24) claimed that they are scared of bats, whereas only 36% of people aged 25-34 chose this as their reason.

2. ‘They are unattractive/ugly’ – people described them as ‘unnerving’ and ‘evil’. REALLY, ARE THEY?

3. ‘They are flying rats’ – However, older adults were more likely to believe that rats are ‘flying rats’- this indicates that this common misconception is slowly disappearing.

4. ‘I worry they will fly into my hair’ – they definitely won’t, particularly in the UK where echolocation makes bats highly accurate fliers

5. ‘They are vermin’ – They wouldn’t spread diseases such as rabies if we didn’t invade their habitats, and you are more likely to die from rabies caught from your household pet!

I then asked the 1000 respondents to give their own opinions on bats in one sentence; some of which were comical ‘Bats are a bit like batman if he was just a bat’ and ‘De, de, de, de, de, de, der BATMAN!!’.

Here are a few of the more usual responses, both positive and negative:

Positive opinions

Essential to British wildlife
Environmentally friendly
Given bad press in horror movies

Negative opinions

Bats are boring
Creepy night dwellers
Dark avenging creatures of the night
Dirty disease ridden rodents
Flying mice

Common misconceptions

These were some of the most common misconceptions about bats:

25% of people didn’t know whether or not bats get tangled in peoples hair, but people in London were most likely to believe that they do (16%). 

Only 1 in 5 people realise that bats are responsible for pollinating the plant responsible for Tequila (the agave plant). Furthermore 3 in 10 people believe that bats do not pollinate any of the commercial plants mentioned (agave, bananas, peaches, cloves, balsa), even though they pollinate all of these and many more!

Other misconceptions include the following:

  • Almost 4 in 10 people believe bats are blind!
  • 1 in 10 people believe that bats are close relatives to mice
  • 62% of people believe that there are under 100 species of bats, even though there are around 1300

Protecting bats in the UK

One respondent has clearly had issues with bats living in their property and isn’t aware of the many services they provide us with: ‘Why should bats have more residency rights than humans?’The answer? Education! Horror movies and old wives tales have hindered the popularity of bats for far too long; I can guarantee that a huge amount of people would like bats if they just knew the facts!

3 in 10 people don’t realise that UK bats are protected, making it illegal to capture, disturb or destroy their roosts. The two regions where the least people knew bats are protected were the North East (42%) and London (41%). 53% of young adults did not know that bats have protection in the UK. However, 63% of UK adults acknowledge that renovating, converting or demolishing buildings could have adverse effects on bat populations. Learn more at or via this handy little buzzfeed post.