Despite the rising popularity of Batman movies and television shows the past five decades, actual bats don’t seem to have much of a fan base.
“People hate bats because of old scary movies, and because they don’t see them a lot. They also have a mystery to them, and people do freak out about them,” says Dan Bozone, owner, president and director of operations of Friends of Bats, a bat removal and bat-proofing business in St. Lucie, Fla.
In Florida and many states, all species of bats are protected from being harmed. This is primarily because of their great importance to the balance of ecosystems and their unmatched contribution to managing the mosquito population and other bugs, he says.
If you have a bat colony living in your home or find a lone bat in your yard, here’s what you need to know about these creatures before you evict them yourself, or call a wildlife removal professional that has exclusion devices.
Problems Caused by Bats
Bozone says bats can pose some serious health risks to people if you get a bat infestation in your home, sheds and other areas of your property.
“Over time, bat droppings (called guano) and their urine (which has a heavy ammonia scent) can cause problems,” he adds. “It can stink to high heaven. It’s like an old cat box on steroids. Plus, they can rot your roof and attic insulation. They are not good houseguests.”
If you compromise the droppings without precautions, you can cause histoplasmosis. It is an infection caused by breathing in spores of the fungus often found in bird and bat droppings. Professional bat poop cleaners use respirators.
Also, rabies from bats has become a fear of many. However, Bozone explains that only one percent of the overall bat population has rabies.
“Rabies from bats to humans is extremely rare. Just don’t let a bat bite you. If you see one on the ground, there is something wrong with it. Just be very careful and don’t use your bare hands,” he says.
Getting Rid of a Single Bat Inside Your Home
Stay calm is the first advice the Florida Bat Conservancy tells people who have a bat in their house.
“If it’s flying around, it is not trying to attack anyone. It is only attempting to find a way out,” the organization explains.
Turn on the lights in the house to see the bat. They can see you. The myth was wrong. Bats can see and are not afraid of the light. Close doors to adjoining rooms and open exterior doors and windows in the room to allow the pest to fly out.
Chasing the bat out will only make it think you are trying to hurt it. Have patience and let it fly out itself.
Don’t Touch a Bat
Handling the bat with bare hands is definitely a no-no. It could bite you to protect itself, just like any animal. If it does bite someone or transfer saliva to someone’s open wound, eyes, mouth or nose, go to the emergency room quickly. Save the bat, too, to be tested for rabies.
The Wildlife Center of Virginia recommends always wearing leather gloves when working with a bat. Also remove pets and small children from the room that you are trying to exclude the bat from.
Bozone says that some people attempt to use mothballs and substances such as essential oils to rid their homes of brown bats and other species of bats. However, he hasn’t seen much proof showing either one of them helps in bat control. He adds that you’d have to use a whole bunch of mothballs to do much help. The active ingredient in them is naphthalene, which can be toxic to humans, too.
Evicting a Bat Colony in Your Attic
Bozone says if you need to get permanent exclusion of a colony of bats, you should consult with a professional who can help evict bats and keep them from coming back from that specific area. Research the company to make sure they use humane methods.
Females and babies are roosting in mass colonies. “They are very territorial and come back each year,” he says. “You don’t want them to get used to your house as their home.”
The professional (or if the homeowner wants to try their own hand at this) will need to install one-way exclusion devices sometimes called bat check valves. They go on all entry points of your home that allow bats to get in. It’s kind of like a doggy door that only lets them leave and not return. These can be left on for more than a week. Seal off with caulk once all the bats are gone.
“Bats can get through a ½-inch gap under a roof, flashing, wall or anywhere else,” Bozone says. “They are searching for a warm, safe place during the day from predators. They like to go places near water and food.”
How to Get Rid of Bats in Your Yard
Ridding bats from gazebos, carports, behind shutters and other outdoor can take a little ingenuity. If you have a bat problem in your patio umbrella or other structure, you can try to construct a DIY bat repellent from a few common items, according to the Humane Society of the United States. By using Mylar film or flash tape — a visual bird deterrent made from an iridescent red and silver — you might be able to repel bats from your outside buildings.
You can also attach plastic sheets with staples to those structures so the bats cannot grasp onto the building or part of the structure they are living on. Make sure the staples are an inch or less apart so the bat cannot get between the sheeting and get stuck.
When to Call in a Professional
If the job of handling your bat problem seems overwhelming or it just freaks you out, then call in an expert. Not any pest control company will do. The Bat Conservation International maintains a list of professionals who evict bats humanely. Your state wildlife agency may also be a resource to find help. An ordinary exterminator probably won’t have the expertise you need.
Also, the average cost to get rid of a small colony of bats in your attic costs about $150, according to FixR. You can expect to pay at least $75 for an initial inspection, and then $75 for bat exclusion. But applying sealant to entry points can cost $100 per gable vent. Every hole to seal will also cost.
The cleanup of bat guano could cost a lot more than the removal because workers might need to replace insulation, are working with hazardous materials and in tight places like attics.
Most people prefer to let a professional handle it. But if you do it yourself, clean with a mild bleach solution and wear protective clothing. Include a mask with a fine mesh breathing apparatus of 2 microns or less. Bat guano carries a disease-causing fungus called histoplasma.
The Time of Year Matters
You can’t just get rid of bats any time of year. It all depends on what they call the maternity season. For instance, in Florida, mother bats are giving birth and raising their babies from mid-April through mid-August, says Bozone.
Getting rid of bats this time of year could cause problems for the homeowner and the bats. The young bats become trapped inside and could discover the living areas of your home. They then could die from starvation, which is animal cruelty, and cause odors or possible health problems. Check with your state wildlife center for more information on the right time to get rid of bats.
Build a Bat House
To add another level of making sure bats don’t come back into your home, you can add a backyard bat house. The Florida Bat Conservancy explains most bats living in the state roost in mature trees, dead trees, or in caves. But because of construction and development, bats have lost much of their habitat. They then find residence in buildings and manmade structures.
Bat houses, just like birdhouses, give them an alternative for protection. A bat house in your backyard will offer local bats a much-needed place to live. They will also do you a return favor by helping to control the insects in the area. There are many plans online such as the conservancy’s plan.
The Beauty of Bats
Those visiting Austin, Texas, are seeing some spectacular shows — and not just in the popular music venues. The sight of nearly 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats emerging from under the Congress Bridge in Austin has become a tourist attraction. Boat tours let you see the bat flights from mid-March to early November.
Bozone recently experienced more than 200,000 bats during the Bat Flight Program at the National Park, Carlsbad, N.M. Each evening, Brazilian free-tailed bats emerge in search of food from late May-October. A ranger gives a talk about bats before their impressive flight, he adds. The program takes place at the Bat Flight Amphitheater.
“Most people don’t know that bats are mammals. They think they are rodents,” he adds. “They have every bone in their body just like we do. They even have opposable thumbs. So, they are very similar to humans.”