If you’ve got bats in your belfry or if you have a similar assortment of terrible puns, you’re not alone. Many people are rather nervous to discover that they have bats living in or close by their home. What can you do if you’ve discovered a colony of bats living in or near your house?
The Ecological Role of Bats
While people often feel nervous about bats, these animals are actually very useful to people. In the tropics, bat species pollinate fruit trees, including the delicious mango. In North America, many bat species are carnivorous and enjoy munching on mosquitoes, eating up to 1200 mosquitoes per hour. When you see a bat in your garden, this means that your natural pest control crew is out and working hard, reducing the likelihood that you’ll be scratching a new crop of mosquito bites the next morning.
Fears About Bats
Since bats are most active at dusk and in the night time, we don’t see them as often as day time creatures and we may be afraid of them. There are many stories about bats that aren’t entirely true. Will bats get stuck in your hair as you walk in your garden? Like many night animals, bats actually have a very good ability to navigate in the dark. They do this by bouncing sound off objects. While they may dart over your head in the dusk, it’s likely because a tasty mosquito was just about to land on your head.
Do bats spread disease? While the large majority of cases of rabies in the US are caused by rabid bats, there are generally less than 20 cases of rabies in the United States every year. According to the Center for Disease Control, only 6 percent of diseased bats sent in for testing actually have rabies. If you see a diseased bat, it’s quite likely that it has a different disease. The best way to avoid getting rabies from a bat is to avoid touching bats. You’d probably call in the experts if you had a skunk in your living room. If a bat gets confused and ends up in your home, you can call a wildlife specialist who can use protective equipment to avoid getting bitten while removing the bat.
Will bats eat your wood and wires? If you have a bat colony in your home, you may hear noises such as squeaking. In spite of these noises, bats are not rodents like mice and rats. They aren’t interested in chewing on cords or wood. However, like any other nest an area that bats are using can get dirty.
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Where Bats Live
Historically, most bats have lived in holes in trees and in caves. Today, the convenient caves that we call attics can be very attractive to bats. Bats look for nesting areas behind tiles and wood. In the summer, the females roost for a few weeks in a maternity roost as they have their babies. In the winter, bats look for a longer-term hibernation roost.
Another animal that hibernates is the groundhog. Although we hate to see them eat our garden we can learn some lessons from the groundhog.
What to do With a Bat Colony
If you’re concerned about bat roosts in your home, the best thing to do is to prevent the bats from nesting there. Maintain your exterior boards and your attic entrances so that the bats are not able to enter them. Bats don’t make holes: they just enter the ones that we’ve left open by mistake. If you’d like the bats to be on your property and clean up your mosquitoes, provide them with a bat box on a nearby tree. Bat boxes are easy to build and provide excellent bat habitats that are custom-designed for the bats’ needs.
Before you decide to remove your bats, contact your state wildlife officials about regulations in your area. These regulations are designed to protect bats. Early fall is the best time to evict your bats. If you disturb a roost at the wrong time, you can damage your local bat populations. Disturbing nesting mothers in their roost may cause them to abandon their young, while disturbing hibernating bats can lead to fat loss and may cause bats to die if they are forced to become active during hibernation. Winter, late spring, and summer are all bad times to evict bats.
The Humane Society recommends either bringing in a humane bat removal professional or installing bat check valves in late autumn. A check valve is a system that allows bats to exit but does not allow them to reenter their roost. It can be as simple as a flap of mesh. According to the Humane Society, you need to begin by finding the openings and installing check valves. Since bats don’t necessarily leave at the same time or every night, you should leave the valves in place for around a week, then check the exit and around the house at dusk to ensure that the bats are no longer inside. After that, you can seal the entrances.
Want to learn more about bats? These books about bats can help you with that.
Living with wildlife can pose its challenges. If you don’t mind living around bats, they can provide some great pest control benefits. If you’d prefer to have them live close by but not in your home, choose a humane method of creating alternative habitat and adding check valves before evicting your bats.