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Bats are not exactly man’s best friend. They are neither attractive nor sought after creatures. Generally, they are considered a nuisance or pests. There are also several common myths associated with bats that need to be addressed, as well as suggestions on how to repel them. Here are some facts, common myths, and ways to rid or repel bats.
One of the most common myths surrounding bats is they are thought to be blind. However, bats are not in fact blind. They use a form of ‘radar’ called echolocation to navigate and they can actually see as well as humans.
Another common myth related to the flying mammals is they are known to attack humans. The reality is they do not attack people or get tangled in their hair, as a general rule. If a human is bitten by a bat, it is usually either the result of a sick or mishandled bat.
A third common myth that needs to be addressed is whether or not vampire bats exist. Yes, they do in fact exist, however, they are not indigenous to the United States. Vampire bats live only in Latin America and feed only on the blood of livestock or birds, not on human blood.
Another common myth surrounding the flying mammals is the suggestion they carry rabies. While it is true bats are the most common vectors of rabies, fewer than one percent of bats are actually infected with rabies.
While the flying mammals might not pose the significant health concerns and dangers many have feared, there are other facts, common myths, and ways to rid or repel bats that should be addressed. Some of the issues created by bats in homes and buildings they occupy include histoplasmosis, which is an accumulation of their droppings, that could attract insects or other bats, as well as leave a persistent odor. These lingering odors and previous infestations could attract new populations to buildings and structures where bats have previously roosted. Additionally, their scratching and squeaking can be annoying. Moreover, although most bats do not have rabies, there is the possibility that one is infected and would pass the disease if a person is bitten.
It is also important to point out bats may enter homes and buildings during any season for different reasons. In winter, they seek a warm refuge to ‘overwinter’ (hibernate). Some species tend to hibernate individually, while others will enter warm homes or buildings in small groups to survive the winter. They could become active if the attic or other area in which they roost experiences extreme temperature changes. In spring, female bats seek out appropriate areas for roosting as they prepare to give birth. The babies are then born in early to mid-summer. In summer, bats will harbor in warm buildings and structures to raise their young. Although they roost in homes and buildings both winter and summer, they will often migrate between seasons to different structures. While in fall, male bats will join the females to begin mating.
As with most pests, the best prevention and way to rid or repel against the flying mammals involves bat-proofing a home or structure, which entails sealing all possible openings through which the bats could enter. For bats, this is also the best method of control. Bats can fold up their bodies and enter through openings as small as 3/8 inch. In most cases, they will enter at high points, but they could also enter through other open areas and doors. When possible, it is recommended to seal potential entry points with caulk or other hardening substances. In areas with vents and other needed openings, those could be sealed with some form of netting or wire screens.
When sealing a structure, care should be taken to not seal bats within the structure. In order to prevent this misstep from happening, it is best to seal the home or building in late fall or early spring, which is the time gap after populations have left and before new bats would enter. Summer control measures are not recommended since bat babies are born and raised during this time and any control attempted could result in sealing the babies within the structure.
In order to rid a structure of an existing population of bats, Purdue University has recommended the following protocols: 1) Seal all but one or two of the main openings and wait three to four days for the bats to adjust. 2) Install a one-way exit and place a mesh screen cloth over any remaining openings. 3) Permanently seal openings once bat activity has ceased.
Bats could be repelled by direct drafts or breezes of cold air from air conditioning or fans in the area they seek to roost in the spring, as they desire warm locations to raise their young. Additionally, bats might also be repelled by bright lights in areas they seek to roost. Another bat repellent to consider is camphor balls or flakes, which emit strong fumes, in screen-covered containers placed in an attic or structure. This will not only help repel bats already residing there but will also discourage any new ones from taking up residence.
If a bat flies into a human occupied area, try turning off the lights and opening the windows or doors to provide it with an exit. If possible, it is also advised to trap it in the room, so it cannot wander into other areas of the home or structure. Bats should never be handled with bare hands. If a person attempts to capture and release the flying mammal, gloves and a net, box, jar, or container should be used and covered. If bats will not leave the home or structure, animal control or an exterminator should be contacted immediately.
It is important to address facts, common myths, and ways to rid or repel bats in case an individual encounters one either in their home or outside. If a bat is flying during the daytime, interested in a pet’s food dish, incapacitated on the ground or dead in the water, it should be assumed the bat was sick or possibly rabid and animal control should be informed immediately. Other warnings signs of sick or rabid bats to watch out for include bats that are found indoors near a sleeping person, young child, an incapacitated adult, child, or pet should also be tested for rabies. A bat bite usually feels like a tiny pinprick, and it is often difficult to tell if and when it happens. Anyone who believes they might have been bitten by a bat should seek medical attention right away.
By Leigh Haugh