Mist settling over trees in woodlands

Spooky species

There’s something eerie in the air...

The nights are getting darker, thick fog is rolling over hills and an uneasy silence is falling on the natural world. As we approach All Hallows Eve, it doesn’t take much imagination to believe there could be unsavoury creatures in our midst. 

 

But of course, monsters aren’t real. You’d never encounter creatures that suck your blood on an evening stroll, or witness a cold dead hand rising from the ground in your local woodland. 

 

Or would you…? 

 

For your Halloween entertainment, here are five examples from the natural world which could have stepped straight from a horror film. 

Barn Owl

Imagine for a moment that you are a mouse. Braving the darkness of the forest at night, you scramble through the undergrowth seeking tonight’s meal. The vegetation sways in the wind, hiding you from sight, but could it be hiding something else? Suddenly, a soundless flash of white, and before you even realise what it is, you have become the meal.

 
The hunter is a barn owl. One of our most iconic birds, its white underparts are ghostly white, while its deep, dark eyes cast a haunting gaze that cuts through the darkness. And just like a ghost, it seems to make no physical impression on the world around it. The size and shape of a barn owl’s wings allow it to fly in complete silence. Perfect for capturing unsuspecting prey. 

Devil's coach horse

You only need to look at a list of this beetle’s alternative names to see where its associations lie. Also known as the devil’s steed, the devil’s footman and in Irish, the ‘coffin-cutter’, it has been connected with the devil since the Middle Ages.

 
With a powerful jaw, lightning speed and a defensive stance like a scorpion, devil’s coach horse beetles are not to be trifled with. They count spiders, slugs and worms amongst their prey and can even give humans a nasty bite. 

Dead man's fingers

You’re strolling through the woods at dusk, the only sound the crunch of leaves underfoot. Passing over a long-dead beech tree, you catch sight of five black, bony fingers clawing at you from beneath. Are the undead rising, or have you found some dead man’s fingers? 


This creepy fungus grows in strands of between 3-6 ‘fingers’, which can come in a myriad of shapes, sizes and colours. And whereas zombies have a penchant for eating human brains, Dead Man’s Fingers are much more effective at rotting deadwood, drawing nutrients back into the woodland floor. Although it may seem harmless compared to a zombie, don’t be tempted to eat this fungus, as dead man’s finger is not edible. 

Wolf spider

We’re told that spiders are more afraid of us than we are of them. Try telling that to an insect. Just like their similarly hairy namesakes, wolf spiders are expert hunters which track, chase and leap upon their prey. 


While they may not trap prey in a web like some other spiders, they use their silk in an even more frightening way. By casting a strand into the air, wolf spiders form a ‘parachute’ which allows them to float on the wind. So who’s more afraid? You, or the hairy, flying, wolf spider? 

Bats

Bats are creatures of the night, and have been long-associated with vampires and bad luck. This makes them a staple silhouette in a Halloween display — but how spooky are they, really?  
 
Though they are far from the monsters depicted in popular folklore, there are three species of vampire bat found only in Central and South America. They earned their name by feeding on livestock, creating a small graze on the skin through which they can consume up to a tablespoon of blood each night.  
 
Far from bringing bad luck, bats are important environmental indicators, and an abundance of bats usually means that the surrounding environment is doing well.  

Midges

Last but not least, we have the most dreaded creature of all, the highland midge. Forget vampires; a still, humid evening in a lonely glen will have you cursing these bloodsucking beasties as they swarm and feed on every inch of your being. 


Descending upon the exposed flesh of their prey, midges use their sharp mandibles to pierce the skin and gorge on blood. And if the thought itself doesn’t get your heart racing, the midge can help with that too. They actually release chemicals into the bloodstream which speed up the blood flow, filling them up that much quicker. 


Dracula’s castle doesn’t seem so bad now. 

Faded cobweb over a black background

Happy Halloween!

Hopefully, this article has provided some fun and interesting spooky facts, but we should finish by saying that 'creepy' or not, nature is incredible. Whether it’s wolf spiders controlling insect populations or midges providing food for fish, they all have their own vitally important roles to play.

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