Bats do more benefit than harm. However, they can spread illnesses, including rabies and histoplasmosis, so it might be best to discourage them from living in your home, or near it. Here’s what you need to know about getting rid of bats from your home and property.
More than 40 species of bats live in the United States, and almost all of them are federally protected species. There are times you want to drive them out, but you want to be sure you are going about it the right way. This article will provide answers.
Getting Rid of a Single Bat Inside Your Home
“Bats can get through a half-inch gap under a roof, flashing, wall or anywhere else,” says Dan Bozone, owner of Friends of Bats, a bat removal and bat-proofing business in St. Lucie, Fla. “They are searching for a warm, safe place during the day from predators. They like to go places near water and food.”
What you as homeowner should do to get rid of a single bat in your home:
- Stay calm. “If it’s flying around, it is not trying to attack anyone. It is only attempting to find a way out,” the Florida Bat Conservancy says.
- Turn on the lights so you can see the bat. It also helps if they can see you; remember, they aren’t trying to attack you, they are trying to get out.
- Close the doors to adjoining rooms to confine it to one room.
- Open exterior doors and windows so the bat can do what it wants and fly out. It isn’t true that more bats will fly in.
- Do not chase the bat even if you just want to help it get away. It will think it is under attack. It may fight back or hide, but it won’t try to find a way out.
- Wait for the bat to land. Then put a large can or plastic bowl over the bat, slide a piece of cardboard or perhaps a magazine under it, then take it outside and let it go. Wear heavy work gloves. Be gentle (another way of saying don’t provoke it).
- Don’t touch a bat with bare hands. Wear heavy gloves, especially during bat removal. Even then, handle them only as you must.
- Don’t put bats on the ground. If you remove a bat from a house, don’t place it on the ground. Place it on a piece of fabric, wait until the bat grabs on, then drape that fabric on a shrub, tree limb or fence.
Getting Rid of a Bat Colony in Your Attic
Here are the options to get rid of a bat colony in your attic:
- They might have been there for years. Bats are nocturnal and quiet. By the time you, the homeowner, see the signs (or smell the smell), they might have been roosting there for weeks, months … or years. So if you realize you have a colony of bats, you don’t need to panic. You can be methodical about bat removal.
- They might leave on their own. These are almost always maternity colonies comprised of females and their young. Females become pregnant in the spring and give birth in early to mid-summer. The young will be able to fly before summer is out.
- But bats expect to return. “They are very territorial and come back each year,” Bozone says. “You don’t want them to get used to your house as their home.”
- Install check valves, bat cones, or other excluders. These are devices that are placed on the entry points used by bats. The device has a one-way door that lets bats go out but not in. Check valves and cones should evict any bats in a few days, after which you can remove the valves and seal the openings. You can use caulk.
- Wait for the right time. If you exclude the females from the attic during the summer, the young will be trapped inside. They will die, then decompose, creating odor and other health problems. Check with your state wildlife center for more information for the right time to get rid of bats in your area.
- You can let them live there. Maternity sites are important to the species. Some people let them return in the spring to roost, knowing they will be gone by fall.
- Consult a professional. They not only evict bats, but have procedures to discourage them from coming back, Bozone says. They know how to get rid of bats.
Getting Rid of Bats in Your Yard
Removing bats from gazebos, carports, parking pavilions, behind shutters and other outdoor structures can take a little ingenuity:
- For bats in a patio umbrella, simply open the umbrella and leave it that way. Bats sleep during the day in the folds. If there are no folds, they will move on.
- For bats found in garages or other structures, just wait. Such spaces are not good for bats, so they will give up on them after a day, if that. Then caulk shut any openings.
- Bats use gazebos, carports, and other nearby structures as temporary stops after feeding, staying until they poop. The bat poop will be infectious. To discourage the bats from continuing to stop in, you might add lights; bats hate them, especially bright lights. You might also spray regularly with the bat repellent phenol, a chemical that has a mildly sweet smell to humans, but drives off bats.
- Construct a DIY bat repellent from a few common items. Mylar film or flash tape — a visual bird deterrent made from an iridescent red and silver — is an oft-used DIY method to get rid of bats.
- Plastic sheets with staples can be attached over openings or onto eaves so the bats cannot grasp on to them, preventing them from roosting. Stick the staples an inch or less apart so the bat cannot get between them.
- Build a bat house. A bat house will attract bats and their insect-hunting ability, but provide them a place to roost that isn’t in the house. It can take two years for bats to move in. If they haven’t by then, move the bat house.
When to Call in a Professional
You might try to remove bats or drive away a single bat, should you see one. But if bats keep showing up, or you find the signs (droppings) or entry points of a roosting bat colony, you will find that driving bats away or excluding them often requires an expert.
A professional pest control company or local wildlife organization is a good place to start. The Bat Conservation International maintains a list of professionals who remove bats humanely. Your state wildlife agency may also be a resource to find help with this protected species.
The cost for professional wildlife removal can be expected to run from $255 to $600, with a larger infestation likely to drive the cost higher. Also, keep in mind the price for repairs. Applying sealant to entry points can cost $100 per gable vent. Every hole to seal will also cost.
Extensive cleaning may also drive up the bill. The cleanup of bat guano could cost a lot more than the removal because workers might need to replace insulation and are working with hazardous materials in tight places like attics.
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.
Some of the bat problems:
- Odor: “Over time, bat droppings (called guano) and their urine (which has a heavy ammonia scent) can cause problems,” Bozone says. “It can stink to high heaven. It’s like an old cat box on steroids.”
- Rot: The guano left by bats “can rot your roof and attic insulation,” Bozone says. “They are not good houseguests.” The guano builds up quickly, compressing insulation, making it inefficient. It becomes just about impossible to remove.
- Infection: The droppings can cause histoplasmosis (an infection caused by breathing in spores of the fungus found in bird and bat droppings). It is such a problem that professionals use respirators during bat removal or the cleaning after.
- Rabies: Rabies from bats has become a fear of many, though only one percent of the bat population has rabies. “Rabies from bats to humans is extremely rare,” Bozone says. “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.”
- Parasites: Bats are known to attract parasites, another reason to avoid physical contact with them. Parasites found in bats include chiggers, ticks, and mites.
Bats Aren’t As Bad As You Think
“People hate bats because of old scary movies, and because they don’t see them a lot.,” says Bozone. “They also have a mystery to them, and people do freak out about them.”
He adds, “Most people don’t know that bats are mammals. They think they are rodents. They have every bone in their body just like we do. They even have opposable thumbs. So, they are very similar to humans.”
The good they do:
- Bats reduce the mosquito population. They are a major reason for the reduction of mosquito-borne illnesses such as malaria and the Zika virus. Some bats can eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour.
- Bats eat insects. A lot of them. A bat the size of your thumb can eat 4 to 8 grams of insects each night. One study estimated that bats save farmers an estimated $1 billion worth of crop damage and pesticide costs per year in their turning of insect populations into food sources.
- Bats are pollinators. Bats that feed on nectar among their food sources provide critical pollination for such plants as peaches, cloves, bananas and agaves.
- Bats disperse seeds. Bats that eat fruit lead to 95 percent of the seed dispersal that produces early growth in recently cleared rainforests.
What Do Bats Look Like?
Bats, the only mammals that can fly, have wings instead of arms or hands. The wings have a bone structure similar to the human hand, with flaps of skin between the bones. All the many types of bats are very light, with the largest weighing two ounces.
- Bats have fur on their bodies, sometimes including their head.
- Their wings do not have fur.
- A range of colors are seen on bats, including red, tan, brown, and gray.
- A bat’s ears are large and noticeable, typically sticking up on the side of the head. One type of bat, the Allen’s big-eared bat, has evolved ears so long they are two-thirds of its body length.
FAQs: Bats in Your World
Bats are not blind. They see quite well, but also have advanced hearing. People mistake their advanced hearing as compensating for poor eyesight; it isn’t true. Bats are believed to use their superior hearing to find food in the dark, and their superior vision to find food in the light.
Bats hunt using echolocation, in which objects are found through the use of sound. Bats will take to the air, then send out supersonic sounds through their nose or mouth. The sounds bounce off objects, and the bats then pick up the sounds with their ears. Bats also use their advanced eyesight to see prey in the daylight.
Bats bob up, down, and around as they chase insects, then they trap an insect with their wing or tail membranes and reach down to take the insect into their mouth. It isn’t a sign of disease.
Neither mothballs nor essential oils have proven effective in bat control, says Dan Bozone, owner of Friends of Bats, a bat removal and bat-proofing business in St. Lucie, Fla. He adds that you’d have to use a lot of mothballs, and the active ingredient in them is naphthalene, which can be toxic to humans, too.
The most popular tourist attraction in Austin, Texas, are the Congress Bridge Bats. Nearly 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats emerge from under the Congress Bridge every night from mid-March to early November and fill the sky.
At Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, 200,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats emerge every night from Memorial Day weekend through October. Rangers conduct the Bat Flight Program as they fly, fittingly in the Bat Flight Amphitheater.
Conclusion: Make a Decision
A number of people find that they want to encourage bats to live nearby to pursue their food sources. If you are one of them, good for you, but monitor the situation so the bats aren’t backed into attacking people or spreading disease.
If you are concerned about a bat infestation, take action by calling a professional pest control company that knows how to get rid of bats. If you prefer to go the DIY route, consider using the techniques outlined here to remove bats and restore your peace of mind.