Bats! Tips to bat-proofing your home
For many people, when it comes to the “creepy factor” in household pests, there’s nothing in the world to match the flat-out spookiness of bats.
Though technically mammals, bats so resemble flying mice that they’re typically thought of as rodents. Like rodents, their presence can have a devastating affect on your property, your property’s value and even your health and state of mind.
Once bats find a way into your home, chances are they will visit again and again. Why? Because your home is exactly what they’re looking for. It’s warm, humid and filled with plenty of dark, secretive spaces where bats can breed, hibernate and perform all manner of batty behaviors you would just as soon not have going on behind your walls.
When in nature (meaning, anything outside your home), bats perform many valuable services to the local ecosystem; they eat annoying insects, they fertilize plants; they have their part to play in the circle of life.
All of that matters very little to the homeowner unexpectedly confronted with a wildly flapping winged nightmare in the supposed safety of his or her living room. When that happens, your best bet is to get in touch with a professional animal control specialist, someone like Jason Grimm of BatPro Animal Control in Gowen.
TO BATS: ‘DO NOT ENTER’
According to Grimm, the bat’s are never the problem. The problem is the structural integrity of the invaded home.
“You don’t have a bat problem, you have a structural problem,” Grimm explained. “The problem is there are places those bats can enter. Your structure has gaps that allow bats to enter.”
Grimm stresses that almost every neighborhood is teeming with bats, most of which go all but unnoticed. It’s only when they enter a home that they become a problem.
Once their entry is prevented, the bats can go about their business without inconveniencing (or terrifying) anyone.
“Bats aren’t like mice; they don’t chew holes in your walls to get in,” Grimm said. “Once your home is properly sealed, they’re no longer a problem.”
That’s why it is so imperative, once a bat has been sited indoors, to get a professional to inspect and bat-proof your home.
“A professional can find where the entry points exist, from the top to the bottom of your home,” Grimm said. “It takes a trained eye to see where they enter. There are 101 ways they can enter your home, and you need to have every quarter-inch gap sealed around the chimney and roof line intersections, especially.”
This time of year is peak season for bat removal experts like Grimm, since now is when the young “pups” are beginning to reach maturity. At that age, they often become disoriented and wind up flying around your kitchen.
Also, as winter approaches, large brown bats tend to seek entrance into structures in order to hibernate for the season. Smaller browns typically migrate to the Upper Peninsula to hibernate in caves and mines found there, according to Grimm.
The bats, which hibernate in your attic and crawl spaces, often “come to life” in mid-winter if temperatures climb suddenly, as they did for a while last January.
“The only way to solve a bat problem is to bat-proof a structure from top to bottom,” Grimm said. “It’s the only proper way to permanently resolve bat issues on structures.”
TIPS TO PREVENT BAT INVASIONS
• Bat houses hung on trees near a home will attract bats, which help keep pest populations down. If you have bats in your house already, however, installing bat houses will not take care of your bat problem as they are already roosting in a place they want to be in.
• Roofers putting on new shingles sometimes actually create small gaps in the roof line where bats may enter.
• Bats that get into your home in the night and are not immediately located should be tested for rabies, just in case you were bitten while you slept.
• “Relocating” a bat to a new home, even 20 or more miles away, will likely do no good at all. Bats have excellent directional abilities and can find their way back again.
• Bats sometimes carry “batbugs,” a close cousin of the bedbug. These can infect your home. Batbugs typically leave or die off three to six months after you get rid of your bat problem, since humans make poor hosts for the critters.
• A bat infestation can expose your family to fleas, guano (bat excrement), bad smells, staining, hisoplasmosis and possibly rabies.
• Bats will infest almost any type of structure, given the right access, room temperature and shelter. Even inside a shoe could be an ideal place for a bat to rest.
• Bats can enter your home through a gap as small as 1/4-inch by 1-inch.
• Whacking a bat with a tennis racket damages the bat’s brain, making a rabies test difficult or impossible. Instead, if possible, catch it with protective gloves and a fishing net. Place it in a jar and poke holes through the top of the lid to allow it to breath.
• When handling bats, always wear protective gloves.
• Never try to seal bat entry points during the “blackout” or maternal period from June 1 to Aug. 15; baby bats may be inside and unable to get out of the house. Also, mother bats will do double their efforts to gain re-entry during this time.
Photographs courtesy of BatPro Animal Control of Gowen