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The truths and myths surrounding bats

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Halloween usually brings out some of the craziest theories about ghosts, ghouls and wicked witches. but there's more than one old-wives tales that also take flight on Halloween, especially stories about bats.

For those who have seen a swarm of bats leave their cave, it's easy to see why some fear these flying mammals, but when seen close up, they don't look so bad.

Meet Tatiana, an 18-year-old resident of at the Phoenix Zoo,

"She is a little old lady," said Sue Tacho with the Phoenix Zoo. 'She likes to eat bananas. It's one of her favorite things."

Tacho, an animal keeper, said Tatiana is retired now, but she helped teach children for years that bats are nothing to fear. In fact, they are very important when it comes to keeping Arizona's bug population at bay.

"They do a lot of insect eating, which is really important because I imagine people don't really like having insects really close to them," said Tacho.

They can also be a tourist attraction. One overpass near 40th Street and Camelback is known locally as the "Phoenix Bat Cave", where about 5,000 Mexican Free-tailed Bats can be seen on most summer nights. The bats migrate to Mexico in the winter.

"There are a lot of different bats you could find here though," said Tacho.

Some lesser known bats call Arizona home, including the Ghost-faced Mormoops Bat, and the Occult Little Brown Bat.

There are a number of myths about the mammal. Firstly, they are not blind. In fact, the saying "Blind as a Bat" couldn't be more wrong, as scientists say they see three times better than humans do. It might be their sonar, or use of natural echo-location, that leads people to think that bats are blind.

"I know a lot of people know sonar with bats and dolphins and stuff like that," said Tacho. "They send a sound out and they'll actually get a sound back, and that's part of the reason they live in caves, because its more enclosed, so it's easier for them to actually see or hear that way."

Some people also worry that bats carry disease.

"A lot of people associate bats with Rabies," said Tacho. "It's not that common in bats, but if you see one acting erratic, you can call Game and Fish or anything like that and let them know, but you definitely don't want to touch them. You want to let them do their own thing."

How about bats flying into women's hair? Forget that one.

"I have never heard of that," said Tacho. "They live in large colonies. They don't stuck in people's hair to often."

Bats don't nest, in a lady's hair or anyplace else, like birds do. In fact, Tatiana the Bat showed no interest in Tacho's hair during our visit. However, just in case you run across one, it's best to keep a respectful distance.

"Bat is something you don't want to go and cuddle," said Tacho. "Just let the bat live in the environment and help you out. Don't want to go and snuggle a bat."