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Bats are essential to our ecosystem. Some prey on night-flying insects that threaten agriculture, others play a major role in dispersing seeds and some species pollinate flowers. Our bat populations are threatened by habitat loss and pollution, roost destruction, diminishing food supplies, disease and fearful killing. Many species of bats, around the world, are in serious danger of becoming extinct.
Loss of habitat has forced bats to avail themselves of our attics, roof voids, vacant building and barns where they can find warm, safe roosts to live in and raise their young. Yes, the bats that infest your attic are females. They hang around in groups know as maternity colonies, often returning to the same location, year after year. Males generally roost outside in tree bark at the like.
Once in a while, a lone bat or two might take up residence under an eave, these are generally short-term visitors that will leave when the cooler weather arrives. Some people try to dissuade bats from this type of roosting, by suspending balloons or strips of aluminum foil which interfere with the bat's echo-location instincts.
Bat colonies don't cause real structural damage and they don't chew on wire, however, they can create a great deal of noise, odour and create a mess with their droppings. One bat excretes about 20 pellets a day and if you multiply that by hundreds or thousands of bats, it doesn't take long for you to have an attic full of bat guano. Even in average infestations, there are enough droppings and urine, in average cases it is enough to corrode wood and dry-wall and create a great deal of mold.
Of greatest concern is the potential for diseases such as histoplasmosis which is caused by a microscopic fungus that grows in bat droppings. When the droppings are disturbed the fungus spores become airborne and may affect the lungs. Rabies is also a possibility, although only a small percentage of bats is infected. Generally speaking, bats should never be held. If a bat is found, it should be left alone or moved with a shovel to someplace far away from people and pets. Dead bats should be disposed of in a plastic garbage bag.
If a person or pet is bitten by a bat they should be taken to a doctor immediately. If the bat can be caught, place it in a hard sealed container, such as a coffee can, and take it to be tested for rabies. Very thick leather gloves will protect hands from a bat's tiny teeth. If rabies is not treated it is always fatal.
So how do you keep your house from becoming infested? Bat houses do not lure bats out. It often takes years for bats to discover and adopt a bat house. There are ultrasonic devices that are supposed to deter bats, but they're not really effective and some experts suggest they may even attract bats. The only way to prevent bats from getting in, is to seal up any crack or opening with weather stripping, caulking or polyurethane. If you're already infested, don't do this until you've evicted the bats.
How do you know if you have a bat infestation? You are most likely to smell a strange odour first or hear them. You might notice staining, brown or grey streaks, near the soffits, the roof, chimneys and other areas that bat could use to enter your home. The stains are left by the oil on the bat's skin and/or their urine.
Check the attic for smelly evidence that looks like clumps of dark brown grains of rice.
& if you find it, now what do you do? Bats are protected by law. You are not allowed to kill them- besides it's very difficult to poison the food supply of flying insectivore. People who do try to poison bats are not just violating the law, they're risking creating a health risk as bats tend to live inside the walls and as the bodies rot there, they create bacteria.
Traps are ineffective and extremely inhumane.
The only safe, humane method for evicting bats is by exclusion. In other words, making it possible for the bats to leave the but impossible for them to re-enter the space. This means that you have to find out how the bats are getting in and out. They fly out at dusk and re-enter at dawn and make several trips in and out at night. They often crawl down walls and wedge themselves into gaps behind wooden beams, or facia boards.
Bats should never be evicted when there are young present and in winter, it isn't easy to be rid of hibernating bats. You'll need to find out what species of bat you have; because they all have different behaviours, including birthing seasons. It's best to contact the Ministry for help determining the species and figuring out when you can take care of the issue. Once they're out, seal up every crack, gap or hole in your house- paying particular attention to the roof lines, gable vents, peaks, soffit and facia gaps. Remember, bats don't chew, caulking and polyurethane sealants work well.
It's a misconception that bats are related to mice- they aren't and they don't chew. They don't generally carry rabies, either. Bats are not aggressive but unscrupulous pest control companies will take advantage of the common fear of bats and charge a lot of money to eliminate them. You can do it yourself, it's a difficult, but not impossible, process. It's important to understand that bats can leave a lot of droppings and urine, in average cases it is enough to corrode wood and dry-wall and create a great deal of mold. Interior clean up is very important!
You'll need to wear protective gear and use an air filter mask. The droppings should be lightly misted with a bleach and water solution before being shovelled, swept or vacuumed. People with lung problems should have someone else clean up the droppings.
You'll likely have to shovel out the droppings, into plastic bags and then vacuum the remaining bits. Then, you follow up with a special enzyme based cleaner that eats away the remaining organic matter and kills pathogens. Professionals use products like Bioshield, or Bac-a-Zap, there are a number of similar special cleansers.
And what to do with the bagged treasures? Bat Guano makes a wonderful garden fertilizer. Add one cup of bat dung per gallon of water, mix together, allow the mixture to sit overnight, then strain and apply to plants.