Living in the South, you may be used to seeing wildlife. Opossums in the road and squirrels on trees are nothing to look twice at. You can look up at the sky around dark and see plenty of bats. You probably even chased the mice in the cornfield near your house as a child. All of these animals serve a purpose to the environment, but what happens when they invade your home?
Bats are just one of these “nuisance animals” that can cause damage and be a danger to your household. While they serve an important purpose and indicate environmental health, bats do not belong in people’s homes.
“Bats are amazingly interesting animals,” Dr. Jim Armstrong, a wildlife specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said. “They are a good indicator of environmental health because they eat tons of insects. So I think bats are neat, and we should protect bats, but bats do not belong in people’s houses. Period.”
Armstrong explained that all creatures require food, water and shelter. As a general rule, if an unwanted animal is making its home in your home, the homeowner should find out what is attracting it and eliminate the attraction. Most frequently, bats are coming for shelter, so the shelter should be eliminated.
The most common time bats appear in homes is March through September to set up “maternity colonies.” Armstrong advised that homeowners not to exclude bats during this time because the mother bats need to get back inside so the babies don’t starve.
However, if the bats are able to get from the attic into living quarters, it must be taken care of immediately.
“Just being in the attic isn’t much of a problem; the problem is when they get into the living quarters,” Armstrong said.
Problems bats can cause are the buildup of droppings that become a growth area for bacteria and the possibility that the bat carries rabies. Armstrong advises to never pick up a dead or dying bat with bare hands. If you find one, you should wear gloves and scoop it into a container that can be closed. Then, take it to the health department to be tested for rabies.
Bats are able to wiggle through extremely small spaces. This often occurs in older homes where the siding may have separated or through louvers with rotted or broken screens.
“Bats have oil on their bodies, and they also tend to urinate as they’re getting ready to go in, so that leaves a brown stain that you can look for to see where the bats are coming in and out,” Armstrong said.
Once you identify where the bats come in, you can figure out ways to block those holes.
Armstrong explained that to solve the problem, the homeowner or a hired professional can put up a window excluder tube. Bats will be able to leave through this, but they don’t have the sense to figure out how to get back in.
Homeowners can also put up bathouses as an alternative place for bats to create maternity colonies if you want to keep them on your property.
Another option for prevention is to check the house for cracks or separations in the wood or siding, especially when buying an older home. If the screen is rotting or broken, Armstrong suggests to replace it with quarter-inch hardware cloth because it’s a more durable material.
Armstrong emphasized that “the goal is not to eliminate the bats; the goal is to get the bats out of the house.”