Bats are pests, to be sure. If you’ve seen them hanging around at dusk, then you might have bats in your house, and you should take it seriously. But for starters, it’s important to dispel a couple of myths. A very small percentage of bat species (and virtually none that live in North America) actually eat the blood of other animals. And don’t worry that bats will view your hair as the ideal place to sleep at night.
Bats are flying mammals; the only mammal that has the capability of true flight. Bats have been unkindly described as “a mouse with wings”. There are over 900 known species of bats, ranging from very small creatures which could actually be described as mice with wings to their much larger cousins.
The majority of bats feed on insects and fruits but there are also a handful of bat species that feed on the blood of other mammals; this feeding on blood has added to the deep fear of bats in general in some parts of the world. The phobia and its relative “superstition” are made worse by the fact that some species of bats can carry rabies.
In the west as more and more is learned about bats, it is hoped that through education, some of these fears will be diminished over time.
In the US most bats feed exclusively on insects and play an important part in maintaining the delicate balance of the local ecosystem by eating insects.
So Why Are Bats Bad?
Bats are notoriously misunderstood, and they actually control the local insect population, but there are two really good reasons to get rid of them. First of all, there are aesthetic considerations. Once your house becomes a bat hangout, you’re going to notice a lot of guano (poop) and urine that will make a mess of your house, your deck, your windows, and your porch.
Secondly, bats transmit diseases. You’re probably familiar with the fact that bats carry rabies. Although the chances of encountering a rabid bat are very small, it’s not something you want to risk, particularly if you have children or pets in the home. There’s another disease that is actually more common, called histoplasmosis. This serious respiratory disease is caused by spores released from a fungus that grows in and on bat guano. It can be fatal in the elderly, the young, and the weak, and it can sit around in guano long after you’ve evicted the bats that delivered it. So the removal of bat guano is about more than just aesthetics.
Food, Shelter, And Your Property
Bats, like all animals, need food and safe shelter to live (many species prefer dark, quiet spaces that are safe from predators, such as caves, whilst some species prefer trees for habitation).
When out foraging for food they will also be on the lookout for possible locations for habitation. Man-made structures such as a barn, an attic, etc can provide an ideal haven for colonization. If such a site is near a good source of food also, they will move in. There are three good reasons why bats need dark and quiet roosts: to allow them to digest the night’s meal, to hibernate during the colder months, and for breeding. One of the problems created by a roost is that there can be many bats that come together to form a roost which will also result in another related problem namely the waste produced by the bats.
Whilst bats are relatively timid creatures that normally go out of their way to avoid contact with humans it is still important to remember that bats are wild animals that can bite in self-defense. Also, some species of bats are carriers of rabies and therefore it is important to ensure that you handle bats with great care and never without heavy work gloves.
NB: If you are bitten by a bat and are in doubt if the bat species is a carrier of rabies, you must seek professional medical advice urgently.
The approach you take in controlling and removing an infestation of bats will be determined by whether you think you are likely to suffer in the near future or find out too late that you already have unwanted guests in your property:
a. You can take a pre-emptive approach, if you currently do not have bats on your property, i.e. you live in an area where you believe that there is a likelihood of bats taking roosts on your property. In this case, you should first seek out and consult your local wildlife experts and seek appropriate professional advice.
b. If you discover that you have unwanted residents on your property. In this case, again you must seek appropriate professional advice from your local wildlife expert(s) for the best approach to take. This is necessary for a number of reasons: the first that you understand any legal requirements and secondly to ensure that you are aware of every option available. Remember, if in doubt, bat control work should not be attempted by amateurs, it takes an expert with considerable experience to do the job.
If you discover find that your house has become a place for bats to roost, you must take great care when removing these unwanted guests because in some countries, bats are protected by law and therefore you must exercise due care and act within the law.
Trapping bats is not an effective method of wildlife control because it doesn’t address the problem of the availability of food and shelter. Also, trapped wildlife can suffer injury in their attempts to escape.
How to Get Rid of Bats Roosting on the Building
If the bats are actually on the roof of your house, barn shed, or whatever building, it’s probably not an entire colony. You may just have a single bat who likes your chimney. Still, you want to deal with them as pests. In this case, you need to make your roof a less attractive place to roost. To do this, you can use lights, balloons, windsocks, chimes, bells, shiny fabric, or pretty much anything else that makes it bright, noisy, or active.
If you can live with the fact that bats are going to live near your house and can’t seem to get them off your roof, you may want to build a bat house. Designs are widely available online and they’re relatively easy to make. If you do it right, the bats will probably opt for the house over your roof.
How to Get Rid of Bats Under Porch Roof
This is another common outdoor place for bats to hang out. You can try the same things mentioned in the above section, making it a less bat-friendly place or building a bat house.
If it’s just a problem with one or two bats, you can also try dog or cat repellent. These substances are widely available in stores and can be used as bat repellent. It may be only a temporary solution, and it won’t turn the tide in a war on an entire colony, but you can certainly try it in the hopes that the bats will find a better place away from your home.
How to Get Rid of Bats in Your Attic
This is where things get trickier. First, you need to get the bats to leave, and then you need to make sure they don’t come back.
To do this, you first need to figure out how the bats are getting in and out. Look for holes under the roof, particularly where two structures, such as the chimney and the house, meet. Bats can get in and out of holes that are only half an inch in diameter, so make sure your search is thorough.
Now, unless the bats are hibernating over winter, they will leave their roosts to find food. But not all of the bats will leave at the same time. What you need to do is to put something over these access holes that allow the bats to exit but not reenter. This could be anything from a simple fabric flap to a mesh funnel-shaped device that the bat can push through. You can make these devices yourselves or purchase them from a store, where they are often sold as “excluders.”
The important thing is to leave these excluders in place long enough for all the bats to leave. Then you can plug the holes with whatever material you find most suitable.