There is little in nature more invigorating than watching bats flutter about at dusk, occasionally “dive-bombing” the insects that annoy us so much. Bats are the best insect control there is, eating up to 600 mosquitoes each in an hour. It sounds good right? Yet very few of us are willing to let bats make their homes in our homes, apartments, or other buildings. And why is this?
Unlike mice, bats do not chew holes in buildings. They really don’t have to! It takes a space less than an inch wide for a bat to easily come in or out of a building. So holes to the roof or walls are not damage caused by bats. Rather, there are more insidious risks of bats inhabiting our spaces.
The types of damage bats can do to a building are basically three:
- Spread of Disease. Bats, like other animals, can carry rabies. And although bats rarely bite humans, the risk of bat bites frightens us away from areas inhabited by bats. Along with the risk of rabies, bat guano carries the spores for Histoplasmosis, a disease mainly affecting the lungs of people, especially those with immunity disorders, the elderly, and the very young.
- Introduction of Bat Mites. Bat mites, often mistaken for bed bugs, will often make humans their new hosts. Insect exterminators, sometimes mistaking these for bed bugs, will treat a building, only to be called back time and again because the bugs were killed, but with the presence of bats, new ones took their place and the infestation began anew.
- Structural Damage. As we noted above, bats do not chew on buildings. However, their guano and urine will accumulate over time, resulting in waste dripping through ceilings, ruining insulation, and soaking through sheet rock or particle board, eventually causing the interior of the structure to collapse.
The three hazards add up to one thing: property devaluation. Tenants will quickly move out of a building just knowing there are bugs, bats, or the odor of the bat urine and guano. Buyers will be unlikely to take a second look at a building stained with bat guano, knowing that it is expensive and time-consuming to remove the bats and their droppings, as well as repair the damage done.
The damage caused by bats can be horrendous. But to allow the bats to continue to devalue the property is probably the worst decision an owner can make. He should take action as soon as bats are suspected, thus alleviating the problem and keeping the cost of remediation minimal.
There are only a few ways to deal with bats and the problems they cause:
Ignore the problem hoping it will go away. We’ve already pointed out that is the worst choice because bats will not go away. Instead, they will proliferate and cause more damage over the years.
Try to handle the bats yourself. We highly recommend that you avoid this. If you must, please keep the following in mind: Bats are legally protected. Killing them can result in large fines. Possibly as many as one percent of bats carry rabies. Bats mouths and teeth are very small, and a bite mark may not be detected. Any contact with bats should be treated as a possible exposure to rabies. (Rabies shots can cost up to $3500 per person depending on the state). Bats are persistent, driven by instinct. If you exclude them effectively, they will try to find their way back in over the next several nights – please be aware of windows that are not properly screened. Even a professional exclusion, performed by a technician with years of experience, can result in bats ending up inside the building or house. Also, remember some bats do migrate – other species hibernate in their nest. Sealing up your house in late fall after you think they’ve migrated should only be done if the species has been confidently identified. Otherwise, you and the bats will have a surprise next spring.
Call in a local pest control company. It is possible that your local pest control company does some bat work ‘on the side’. Bat exclusion is a very specialized niche – much different from regular pest issues. To safely and properly handle bat work, a company must work from ladders and/or man lifts. Knowledge of construction standards and codes is important to prevent sealing up areas incorrectly that allow a building to vent properly. The personnel working with the bats should be protected with rabies shots. And finally, bats are wild, persistent animals. There is no substitute for experience.
Call a professional bat control company. This is the most logical route to go. A professional in this area will know just how to find the holes bats use. He will then exclude the bats by inserting specially designed “doors” in the holes that allow the bats to leave, but not re-enter. After a few days, when he is sure the bats are all excluded from the building, he will close up all the holes so that the bats (and any other creatures looking for a cozy home) will not be able to enter. At that point, clean up of guano and urine and the control of the bat mites can be completed, making the area available and safe for removal and repair of any damaged property.
By calling in a bat control professional, the owner has saved the hassle and expense of hiring exterminators (whose work did not address the entire problem), the risk of employees being exposed to disease, and additional expense of further property devaluation.
By Michael Koski