Nature Watch: Separating fact from fiction

By Cheryl Conley

Sometimes we hear things and we just assume they’re correct. When we hear them as children we can go through our entire lives believing them. We even pass that information on to our own children. Let’s dispel some of those old wives’ tales or myths that we’ve heard about animals.

  • The #1 myth I hear is that you should never touch a baby bird because you’ll leave your scent on them, and mama bird will reject them. NOT TRUE. It’s never good to touch baby birds at any time unless you are rescuing the bird. If this is the case, the baby should be taken to a wildlife organization.
  • You can get warts if you touch a toad. NOT TRUE. Toads don’t have warts so passing them to a human would be impossible. Toads have little glands that cover their bodies that look like warts. They secrete a foul tasting, toxic, antibiotic fluid that protects them from predators and illnesses.

  • Have you ever seen a picture of an opossum hanging upside down by the tail? In real life, this is NOT TRUE. Their tails are very important and aid in balance and holding on to things but they do not hang by them.
  • Touching a butterfly’s wings will cause it to die. NOT TRUE. Butterflies look delicate but they’re actually tough little creatures. Their wings have thousands of scales on them and losing a few here and there may slow them down and make it a little harder to fly but it doesn’t kill them. After all, they do have to withstand wind, storms, brushing up against plants and bushes and spider webs. Please don’t touch them, though. If they lose too many scales, they can die.

  • Animals have thicker coats in the fall if a severe winter is expected. NOT TRUE. The rate of hair growth and thickness has nothing to do with weather.
  • Ostriches bury their heads in the sand because they believe if they can’t see you, you can’t see them. People say it’s a defense mechanism. NOT TRUE. Ostriches don’t stick their heads in the sand. How would they breathe?
  • Use tomato juice if you get sprayed by a skunk. It will remove the odor. NOT TRUE. Anyone who has ever tried this found out very quickly that it doesn’t work. There are options available that will work but tomato juice isn’t one of them.
  • You can only be stung by a bee once and then it dies. NOT TRUE. Let me clarify. This is true for honey bees but honey bees make up a very small percentage of all bee species. All other bee species can sting you over and over. Ouch!
  • Rabbits LOVE carrots. NOT TRUE. Sure, they’ll eat them but if given a choice, rabbits prefer leafy vegies. Sure, Bugs Bunny is always seen eating a carrot and perhaps that is how this myth got started but in reality, carrots are not a favorite.
  • The age of a ladybug can be determined by counting the black spots on the wings. Others think the number of black spots indicate how many months will pass before meeting their true love. NOT TRUE. Entomologists believe the black spots are a warning to other creatures that the ladybug tastes bad. Don’t eat me or you’ll be sorry!
  • Bats are blind. Have you ever heard or used the phrase, “blind as a bat”? NOT TRUE. Bats are not blind. ‘Nuf said.

Next time you hear something about animals that seems a little far-fetched, it’s probably inaccurate. Research it. Learn about the animals we share our world with.

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