Bat FAQs: Info about Nuisance Bats
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You have likely seen more than one horror film where somebody walks into a creepy old house and bats fly all around, right? Bats are linked with the dark and gruesome and have been for quite some time now, ever since Dracula was initially depicted as having the capability to become a bat. While these mammals do live in dark spaces, and often creepy areas -deserted buildings, church belfry's, caves, and attics – they are very docile creatures and are very rarely aggressive.
You can find over 1000 different species of bats all across the globe. Bats are, in fact, the only mammals that are capable of flight. While bats are now associated with being evil bloodsucking vampires, that is very rarely the case, unless of course you’re thinking about the Vampire Bat. Which, are known for sucking the blood of their victims. Most species of bats actually primarily eat insects, which means that if you have bats in the area you probably don’t have too much of a bug issue. If you are a lover of tequila (YES), then you should be thanking the bats as they are some of the main pollinators of the agave plant! With so many different bats flying all over the world, how are you supposed to know what bats you’re dealing with at home? Many times bats stick to one set area, so whatever area you’re located in you probably have one or two species in that specific area. Out of the thousands of bat species, there are only about 40 which are common in the united states. The two most common of these are the Mexican Free Tailed Bat and the Virginia Big Eared Bat.
Bats travel and live in colonies, making it rare to see a lone bat. These bat colonies can become rather large, and it is common that you can find colonies reaching numbers that are in the thousands! It's not common to find just one bat in your house, unless he got separated from his colony.
Evidence of Bats in the Attic
Why would a bat seek out your attic? It is a dry, hot, dark location for them to feel secure. It is also above ground, which is preferred for bats and also keeps the number of predators able to access their roosting area significantly low. Even though bats come with a terrifying reputation, they actually have quite a few predators. This is partially due to the fact that they sleep all day, leaving them exceedingly vulnerable during this time.
The most effective way of identifying a bat problem in your home, is by physically seeing them leave the roost. This will happen typically around sunset, as they are leaving the roost to hunt. Not only will you be able to confirm that you are dealing with bats, you can get a good idea for how many bats you are dealing with.
You can also identify a bat problem by the sight or odor of the droppings they leave – otherwise known as guano. Bat Guano has a distinctive odor, that once you smell you’ll be able to identify for the rest of your life. You will never forget the odor, which means you might walk into a cave know there are bats living in it just from the smell. You can most often find guano in large piles where the bats are roosting, or on walls and windowsills near the access point they are using to gain entry to your home.
A less common way of identifying bats is by the noises they make, which is not a lot. They are silent animals, however should they get bothered by loud sounds in the home (such as doors slamming), you might be able to hear them rustling around. Most often, if you’re going to hear them, you will hear rustling as they are leaving the home for the night or returning for the day.
Bat Guano Identification
Seeing as guano is the best way to identify a bat issue, you should know how to differentiate it from other animal droppings. You may be surprised to learn that bat guano is a common ingredient in fertilizer, due to its high content of both phosphorus and nitrogen. Guano is often a pellet shape, similar to that of rodent droppings, but it will become dust once it's touched. Bat guano is also famous for carrying histoplasmosis, fungus spores which if inhaled may cause respiratory disease. This is why it is important to wear a mask and gloves if you are going to be near bat guano.
Bat guano also has a very distinctive odor, which if you’ve never smelled it can be difficult to explain. It has a very overpowering musty smell, and leaves a lingering acidic odor. Once you’ve encountered the odor once, you’ll never forget it. Since bats roost in such large numbers, the guano can easily cover a large area and can pile up. Additionally, it is able to eat away at drywall in your home as well as wood, and if it’s not eating away at your home it could also be growing mold. The smell and contents of nutrients can attract cockroaches, the only thing worse than a bat infestation is a bat AND cockroach infestation.
If you are having bats roost in your attic, you can likely find guano near the main access point that they are using. The guano can also drip down walls on the exterior of the home, which is exclusively found in bat infestations.
Bat Diseases: Rabies
While many people believe that bats are the main carriers of the rabies disease, many bats don't have the disease. In reality, the disease only affects roughly 1 percent of the bat population. It is more common to find people becoming infected with Histoplasmosis from having contact with bat guano. You should still use extreme caution when dealing with bats. Without rabies, bats are very shy creatures; and even with rabies they are not very aggressive, which can make it difficult to identify if you are dealing with an infected bat. Rabies is a very easily transferrable disease and a simple bite or scratch can make you susceptible to the virus.
More commonly people experience issues from histoplasmosis, a fungus found in bat guano. The spores of the fungus become airborne and are easily inhaled, which can then can respiratory issues. If you have bats or have recently had bats in your home and you start to notice breathing problems, you should seek medical attention.
Bats are hairy animals, and shed this hair often. The continuous shedding, like any animal that sheds, can trigger allergic reactions in people. Unlike household pets, you won’t find a hypo-allergenic bat. Since bats are wild animals, they can also bring fleas and ticks into your home. If you have pets, you understand how big of an issue this is. While there are several diseases that bats can carry, rabies and histoplasmosis are the most common ones to affect humans.
It is important to handle bats with extreme caution, this way you can prevent coming into contact with any diseases that bats may be carrying.
When Are Bats Active and When Are You Likely to See Them?
Many species of bats will hibernate during the wintertime, this hibernation period typically starts in November and will continue through about February or March. However, if you reside in a more southern state, you may experience activity year round. Bat mating season will begin after this hibernation period, in late April or early in May. This time period is when you will most often see an increase in bat activity in your attic. Momma bats are looking for an ideal place to roost and have their babies, and when the cave colony becomes too overcrowded they will start to look for a new place to live, a place like your attic! During the maternity season, female and male bats will roost in separate groups. After the babies are approximately 6 weeks old they are able to fly and hunt insects on their own.
Bats are nocturnal, meaning that they hunt at night, and often they will leave their roost right at dusk. Often, if you are outside during this time, you are able to watch them fly out of where they are roosting. They’ll hunt all throughout the night, chasing down mosquitos and other yummy flying insects, then they will return to the roost right before the sun starts to creep up. On occasion, you may be able to hear them rustling around as they prepare to leave the roost or as they are settling back in. During the day, the bats will sleep pretty deeply, so you won’t be experiencing any noises from them during this time.
If you are trying to catch bats leaving a roost, either to identify them in your attic or recreationally, the best times to see them is on a warm dry evening right as the sun is setting.
Bat RemovalHow to Get Rid of Bats in Your Attic
If you have determined that you have a bat colony roosting in your attic, going forward with removal can be a long and difficult process. It is important that you are not removing colonies during the time that the babies are helpless and flightless, they will get trapped in the attic and end up dying. Once the babies are able to fly on their own, about 6 weeks after birth, you are able to remove the colony without worrying about the young ones passing away.
You first want to establish the main entry and exit points they are using to gain entry into your attic. You can seal any other potential access points without disturbing the roost, which will also prevent more bats from moving in. As soon as you've identified the most used access point and sealed all other access points, you will need to install a "one-way valve" on the main entry, this valve doesn't hurt the bats whatsoever, its sole purpose is to allow the bats to get out safely without being able to gain access again. This valve should have a plastic or other type of slick material at the end of it, this way the bats claws can't get a grip good enough to pull themselves back up the valve. As long as all other points are sealed, they will realize they cannot get back inside and will move on to a new roosting place, often your neighbors house.
The exclusion – or sealing of your home – when dealing with bats can be a tedious process, particularly for those who have a barrel tile roof. You must ensure that every hole has been covered properly, as bats can fit into very small holes. Once you are certain that there are no bats remaining in your attic, you can pull out the one way valve and seal the main entry point. During the exclusion, you will want to use wire material and caulk to seal all holes.
The final, and most disgusting, step in the bat removal process is the sanitation. You will want to invest in thick gloves and a face mask or respirator so that you are able to remove guano from your attic space. Dispose of the guano you remove immediately to prevent any potential health risks. You then want to go over the entire area with a disinfectant to break down any bacteria that may still be left behind. This also helps to break down the odor that may be lingering as well.
Why You Should Never Kill a Bat: Why are Bats Protected
When dealing with bats, you may get frustrated with how long the process may be taking. It’s not like you asked for them to move in, and now you’re left with all of the danger that they bring with them. So why remove them humanely? Why not just poison them? Well, for starters, they more than likely won’t touch any poison bait you set out. They are much more interested in the mosquitos and other bugs that they chase all night. On the off chance you are able to make them take the poison bait, they will wind up dying in your attic. While this may seem like exactly what you want, if you thought that bat guano smelled terrible just imagine what bats smell like if they're dead and decomposing in your hot attic. The smell will only get worse with the more bats in the colony that pass away.
Aside from that, you may also be facing a hefty fine if you are found to be poisoning the bats, as it is illegal in virtually every state to kill them. Bats are a crucial part of our ecosystem, especially in mosquito population control. Can you even begin to imagine how many mosquitos there would be if it weren’t for bats?? On top of that, many species of bats can be found on the endangered species list. While bats may be bothersome -and even possibly harmfulto have inside your house, outside the home bats assist our ecosystem tremendously. If they were to go extinct the fallout would be devastating.
As tedious and frustrating as it may be, it is in your best interest to make sure the bats are removed humanely. If the terrible odor of them passing away in your attic isn’t enough to deter you from harming them, imagine not being able to enjoy a BBQ outside with your friends and family because of mosquitos being too bad to be outside.
How to Remove a Bat from A Chimney
Though many people get very excited for the concept of a guy in a red suit coming down the chimney, the idea of a bat doing the same thing doesn’t come off as quite so appealing. Many times, if bats aren’t able to get into the attic then their next favorite choice is your chimney. Make sure that if you are having a bat issue in your chimney, you are not lighting fires until they are gone, as this could place the bats in enormous danger. The process for removing bats from your chimney is almost the same as if you were removing them from your attic. You still have to identify how they're getting into the chimney and any additional access points they could use. You are still able to seal the other entries, leaving the main point of entry open until you're sure there aren't any bats lingering in the chimney. While you are sealing up the access points, you should be certain that the damper on your chimney is shut, which will prevent bats from coming down into the main living area. You may also want to install a chimney cap, which will keep them from entering from the top of the chimney.
Cleaning the guano from a chimney is rather difficult, and it is often recommended to consult with a professional for this step in the process. This will just ensure that all guano is removed safely and effectively, so that you don’t have to worry about the possibility of breathing it in.
When bats are in your chimney, you are most commonly dealing with a maternity roost, which means there are infants. Bear in mind that the infants are not able to fly until approximately August – 6 weeks after birth. So even when you believe you have gotten all of the bats out, it's best to wait until after the mating season is complete and then 6 weeks after, just in case.
How to Catch & Remove a Bat From Inside the Home
Rarely, but still possible, you may find a bat in the living space of your house. While it can be quite simple to remove a bat from your home on your own, but you need to be sure you've got thick gloves, long sleeves, and other protective equipment to help block any access to your bare skin should the bat try to bite you. You’ll want to seal the room that the bat is in, shut all doors so he can't fly to a different area of the home. If you have access to a small net, this would be perfect for trapping the bat, but you can also use a towel to grab it. Wait until the bat lands somewhere, and then slowly approach him and scoop him into whatever you’re using to restrain him, being careful to not apply too much pressure.
The bat will most likely be ready to take off on his own once you get outside. However, if he does not, you should put him on a tree and then walk away. Bats sometimes require high ground to take off, so the bat will need to climb to a more ideal location to take off from
If this is the first sign of bat activity in your home, you should inspect your attic to ensure that you don’t have a colony moving in and going unnoticed. You want to ensure that your bat visitor actually was flying Han Solo and not just part of a potentially larger problem. If you stay outside to watch him take off and realize he flew directly up on your roof, then this may also be an indication that there's a possible entry point.
If you have bats in the attic that you are already aware of, and the bat in the living space was from your attic, you want to immediately find out how he got into the main home. Bats in the living space increases any health risks, so you don’t want any more finding their way inside. You want to fix the entry point as soon as possible.
What are Bat Houses and Do They Actually Work?
Bats in the neighborhood are often welcomed due to the fact that they help control the bug population. However, no one wants them in their home, so what do you do? Deal with all the bugs? Or tolerate the damage that they leave in your home? There is actually a way to compromise and have bats eating bugs and not living in your home. A bat house functions as a place for maternity roosts to have a secure place to have their babies and for the babies to stay safe while they are maturing, these allow them to live in the neighborhood to help with bug population while also keeping them out of your attic. It really is a win-win for the parties involved, except of course the bugs.
Bat houses are tiny house looking structures, they resemble bird houses, they are generally wooden and will give the bats room for a small roost. While you may see guano around the bat house, rain and natural elements will eventually completely break down the guano. Since guano is often used in fertilizer anyway, this can actually benefit your lawn as well.
Since bat houses are mutually beneficial, many people will have them installed without even having had a previous issue with bats in their home. Bat houses sit on long tall poles to deter predators from reaching in, and are easy enough to install on your own. You can install as many as you want, as all bat houses do is provide shelter to the mammals that help keep bugs out of your neighborhood!