SUMMIT HILL, CARBON COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Bats are a common scare tactic with Halloween getting close, but “real” bats serve a valuable purpose in our local environment.

The only mammals capable of sustained flight often get a bad rap. Flying rats, vampires, and rabies are all stories that you hear about these animals, but we really only have two species here in Pennsylvania, and they’re quite small.

While bats are known for pollination, Pennsylvania bats also serve as insect control.

“There are bats that can eat anywhere from 600-1200 mosquito or mosquito-sized insects per hour. So that’s big time bug control for us, and for free,” said Susan Gallagher, the Chief Naturalist at the Carbon County Environmental Education Center.

Many people are scared of bats because they think they will bite them, but not our resident species

“They all live in central or South America, they do make a living by drinking blood. Usually, it’s blood from pigs or cattle or birds or things like that, but those bats do not live around here,” Gallagher explained.

Often bats will mistakenly wind up inside homes, but it isn’t done maliciously, they just want to find somewhere warm.

“It starts in May and goes all the way through summer, just about Halloween it ends. Usually, I notice they go into hibernation when we get the first frost,” Nick Carter, from Ace Bat and Wildlife.

While bats don’t want to fight us for space, they are fighting against a fungus that has affected their numbers over the last decade.

“The little brown bat, which used to be the most common probably one of the most common mammals in Pennsylvania, over 99% of the population has been wiped out by white-nose syndrome,” Gallagher told Eyewitness News.

Their numbers are starting to recover, but the best way we can help them is by leaving them alone and not handling them.

“All those little things you can do to save the planet can have a direct positive impact on bats too,” Gallagher said.

While unlikely, experts say that if you are bitten by a bat or any other mammal to seek advice from a medical professional.