Halloween biodiversity: Debunking spooky wildlife species
Debunking spooky wildlife species
Debunking spooky wildlife species
By Emily Jerome, National Environmental Treasure
Amongst all things Halloween, wildlife find themselves in the mix of spooky decorations. But, many of these species are misunderstood.
It’s that time of year again where neighbourhoods have been overrun with ghoulish monsters, jagged pumpkin faces aglow and bubbling witches cauldrons. Amongst all things Halloween, wildlife species find themselves in the mix of spooky decorations. Despite legends, myths and folklore, many of these species have been misunderstood and fear of wildlife can often hinder their protection. So, let’s debunk Halloween biodiversity and perhaps you might discover a newfound appreciation for your household decorations and wildlife neighbours.
Nothing says Halloween like black shadows swooping through the darkness with their leathery wings, sharp fangs and thirst for blood. According to bat ecologist and conservationist, Merlin Tuttle, “the single most prevalent reason that I’ve seen worldwide for destroying large numbers of bats is fear.” So, here are some ‘bat-tastic’ facts to beat the fear. In Canada, there are 18 bat species and none prescribe to the bloodsucker diet. In fact, bats save farmers up to 23 billion dollars a year in the United States alone with their furious appetite for insects. On a typical night, a bat can consume the equivalent of its own body weight in mosquitoes, mayflies, moths, beetles and more. So, if you enjoy sitting out in the backyard or camping in the forest, you can thank these hard-working furry friends for thinning the clouds of bugs. You can even show your appreciation by installing a bat house on your property.
It doesn’t get much eerier than the raspy caw caw of crows at night. It doesn’t help their image that the colloquial name for a group of crows is called a “murder” and fables insist they’re a bad omen. But, the more we learn about these ominous birds, the more we realize they are like us. For their size, crows have relatively large brains. They exhibit a level of consciousness that’s comparable to humans and other primate relatives and each crow experiences the world differently. Crows also have complex social structures; they share information with each other, hold funerals to learn about potential dangers, and play with each other. In fact, seven types of play have been documented from aerial acrobatics to sliding down slippery surfaces. So next time you see crows, it isn’t a ‘caws’ for concern. Perhaps you might even spot some of their witty and playful behaviour!
One quintessential Halloween decoration are those spider webs that look great strung between the bushes and trees but are impossible to get off after the candy-crazed night. While the thought of skittling spiders is enough to send most people for the hills, let’s take a moment to learn about their webby superpowers and appreciate their place in ecosystems. Silk is produced by all spiders, but there are different kinds of silk used for different purposes. For example, there’s egg sac silk for protecting spider babies, long strands of silk for creating a web framework and sheets of sticky silk for catching insects. What’s truly amazing about spider silk is one of the strongest fibres found on Earth. Its unique combination of stretch and strength makes it roughly 5 times stronger than steel. By catching insects in their sticky boobie traps, spiders help control insect populations including aphids, beetles and flies. Spiders are also an important food source for predators including birds and toads. So while it might be tempting to squish the eight-legged friend ‘hanging’ out in your home, consider a small act of kindness and relocate the spider outside.