Though there are over 1200 different species of bats in the world, there are only three major types that tend to inhabit the home. Bats are one of the most feared household pests, simply because of their appearance, although constant exposure to bat droppings have been proven to cause certain health related issues such as lung disease.
The major concern upon discovering a bat inside the home however, is normally linked to a number of myths that are often taken at face value by many people. People often believe that bats are associated with folklore and witchcraft, mainly because of their nocturnal lifestyle, and these myths have only caused much hysteria when a bat infestation in the home is discovered. The best way to get rid of bats on a long term basis is by understanding their habits and lifestyles. In the notes below, we delve into a deeper understanding of the way bats operate, and how to keep them out for good.
What are bats?
Like many other creatures including humans, bats are warm blooded mammals that contribute to the ecosystem of life. They are important to the environment as they aid in pollinating flowers and scattering seeds, thereby contributing to the wildlife of many tropical plants and herbs.They are the only mammals that have mastered flight, which can be attributed to their wide wings that contain similar bones to those present in the hand and arms of a human. Bats are generally divided into two major groups because of their size and characteristics, these are the megabats and the microbats. Though the difference mainly lies in size, the megabats are known for their generally peaceful existence, living by eating fruits, while the microbats appear a bit more sinister and are known for their echolocating capabilities.
Also commonly referred to as “fruit bats,” megabats are generally found in tropical countries and islands and are generally very large. There are a few that are the same size as microbats, standing at only 6 cm (2.4 in.), but the majority of megabats are very big, with the largest recorded bat weighing a shocking 3.5 pounds, with a wingspan of 5.6 feet. Megabats are generally herbivores that rely only on plants, and operate based on their sense of smell, instead of echolocation. These bats also have very large eyes, making it easier for them to align themselves inside caves, as well as during twilight.
Also dubbed as “true bats” because of their ability to communicate via echolocation, microbats are the more popular of the two, and can be found in many different countries worldwide. They are generally very small, with sizes varying from 4 to 16 cm (1.6 to 6.3 inches) and carry a variety of characteristics that make them different from their larger counterparts. Microbats are also known to be “vampire bats” as well, because some of their specie feeds on blood. Most microbats however have a diet of insects, sometimes frogs and even fish. While one of the major distinctions of microbats is their ability to echolocate, they also contain certain physical traits that makes them distinctly different. Examples of this include the difference in the size of the ear and eyes, as microbats tend to have larger ears than megabats, and smaller eyes. Ultimately, both microbats and megabats are crucial to the ecosystem of the world, but understanding them helps when getting rid of them.
What do bats look like?
While there are many different species of bats, most if not all bats have some distinctive features that groups them in the order of Chiroptera. Bats are not exactly the most beautiful to look at, but there bodies are designed in a way that is more functional than adorable. Bats can firstly be identified by their webbed wings, which tend to make up a good amount of their body. They also come in a variety of different colours such as brown, black, tan or grey. Their bodies are generally covered with fur, except for their webbed wings which are fur free. Bats can be easily identified by their long wings, short snouts and typically long ears.
Do bats bite and what are the symptoms?
One of the major questions surrounding the presence of bats, or bat infestations, is whether bats bite and the symptoms that these bites may cause. While bats generally are very peaceful creatures that tend to avoid contact with most humans, they can get violent if they are disturbed, and yes they do bite. This is one of the major reasons that bat infestations are so dangerous. People generally try to handle or take up a bat they see on the ground, leading the bat to feel threatened, following which the bat may bite to protect itself. There are also possibilities of getting bitten by a bat if you go too close to their offspring and the mother than attempts to protect her pups.
Most bats however tend to stay away from humans, and only feed on insects to survive. A common misconception surrounding bats is that they are evil creatures seeking to suck on the blood of humans. This is in no way factual. Most bats are not blood suckers, and even the ones that are will never feed on human blood. Instead, they tend to feed on the blood of other animals such as pigs. These “vampire bats” are also specific to certain places in the world, such as Central America.
If you do however get bitten by a bat, you are at risk for developing some serious health conditions. In this case, your biggest concern and worry should be contracting Rabies. Rabies is a deadly virus that can be contracted by being bitten by a bat, fox, coyote, raccoon or skunk, and can be identified by a number of specific symptoms. However, once someone begins to show symptoms of rabies, they could be nearing fatality.
The most common symptoms of Rabies include:
- Partial Paralysis
Once these symptoms begin to manifest after being bitten by a bat, you may be nearing death. It is best to head immediately to your nearest hospital or clinic if you suspect you have bitten by a bat. Based on the injuries present and any pre existing conditions, both you and your doctor can decide on the way forward to prevent you from contracting Rabies.
NB: If you find a young child or person with a disability near a bat, assume they have been bitten and taking them to the nearest hospital or clinic (with relevant permission).
Are bats dangerous?
The truth is that bats can be dangerous to humans, but not for the reasons we’ve been taught to believe. Bats aren’t dangerous because they prey on humans but because they are vectors of many diseases that can be fatal. There also some diseases that can be caused by bat droppings, also known as guano, which is one of the main reasons that an infestation should be dealt with by pest control professionals. Some of the major diseases transmitted by bats are:
- Histoplasmosis – This disease is directly caused by bat guano, and can be contracted when humans come in contact with it, by breathing in the air that is contaminated by bat guano. This condition causes a lung infection, and rarely shows symptoms. When it does show symptoms however, they occur over a short period of about 3 to 17 days after the person has been contaminated by the bat guano.
People that have a weakened immune system, especially due to an auto immune condition such as HIV or Lupus are particularly vulnerable when it comes to this condition, and may have a higher risk of dying from this condition. If you have been diagnosed with Histoplasmosis, you will receive very specific anti-fungal drugs to treat this condition, but be sure to mention any pre existing conditions to your doctor.
- Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABLV) – This condition is one that is very concerning because of the three cases of this disease reported, all three have been fatal. This disease can be transmitted directly from bats to humans by a bite or scratch, and generally does not show any symptoms in adults for the first couple of months. In cases where the symptoms do appear however, the patient generally died a couple days after. Doctors have tested rabies vaccines as an effective method to help treating this disease, but the information remains inconclusive.
- SARS Coronavirus – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS for short, is a condition that causes respiratory pain, as well as other types of symptoms such as the flu, muscle pains, fevers and headaches. This virus is potentially deadly and has a 10% mortality rate. The difference between SARS as opposed to the other two conditions listed above is that this disease is a communicable disease, and spreads just as easily as the common cold. While the virus itself has its roots in Asia, it has been found in over 26 countries after its outbreak in 2003, and can be easily spread again if someone gets infected.
Signs of a bat infestation
There are many ways to identify signs of a bat infestation, but perhaps the most common sign of however, is finding bat droppings in different areas of your home. Another telltale sign of an infestation is seeing bats in or around your home on a regular basis, especially during the night time. Other signs of a bat infestation include but are not limited to:
- High pitched squeaking sounds at night – If your house has transformed from a calm and quiet space to loud and distinctive squeaking noises nightly, you may just have a bat infestation. While his may not always mean that bats have taken up residence in your home, it is quite a strong indicator that they are nesting nearby.
- Bad odor coming from a specific area in the house – While bats tend to gravitate towards areas that are deolate, such as the attic or ceiling, they can also take up residence in other parts of the home. You can identify this by checking the suspected area for a pungent ammonia smell. This smell is normally caused by a buildup of bat droppings in a specific area.
- Black or dark stains in suspected areas – Because bats do not love to interact with humans, they tend to use other openings around the house to enter and leave their nest. After some amount of prolonged use, the area normally becomes darkened with a black residue from the bat’s skin, so if you notice any darkened openings around your home, you may need to call for pest control.
- Scratching or scurrying sounds in the walls of your home – Bats tend to scratch and make shuffling noises when they start to move around, so be sure to listen for scratching sounds, along with the other items on the list to decide if you are having a bat infestation.
- You notice bats leaving your house at sun down – Due to their nocturnal nature, bats tend to do most of their work at night. If you notice a bat leaving and returning to your house at relvan times of the day, chances are, you are suffering from an infestation.
Why you may have a bat problem
Though there are so many species, only a handful of bats tend to take residence in human homes, and this is normally due to the warm conditions that these homes tend to have. The main reason bats tend to crate nest in places like attics or cellar is because they provide the warmth and security needed to raise bat pups. An attic is similar to a cave in that, it provides the same comfort needed, but unlike a cave, an attic is much safer because not only is it enclosed, but it is usually void of predators.
The main reason you may have a bat problem is because your attic is not as enclosed or sealed as it should be. Bats are normally just looking for a warm safe space to keep their pups, and if your attic is available, they will by all means take over.
How to get rid of bats
When it comes to bat removal, the good news is that they are not aggressive creatures, so the process may not be as difficult as with other pests. Bats however can get pretty violent if they suspect a danger to themselves or to their pups, so the best way to get rid of them is to follow the step by step guide, listed below.
Step 1 – Do a bat inspection
The first step is to understand how bats are getting in and out of your home, so the problem can end once and for all. In order to do this, you need to perform a thorough bat inspection throughout your entire household. Start by searching your home for any openings you may not have noticed before, and inspect it to see if those openings contain the dark resin that bats have on their skin. You must also search the inside of the home for other evidence of a bat infestation.
Step 2 – Do an attic/cellar inspection
If you suspect that bats are in your attic or cellar, attempt to do a routine inspection to be absolutely sure. This step is very important because different types of bats operate in different ways. It is important to now which type of bat you are dealing with, in order to understand their cycle. There are three main types of microbats that generally, inhabit homes. These are the little brown bat, the big brown bat or the brazilian free tailed bat. Al three have different cycles and hibernating and birthing seasons, so it is crucial to be able to identify what type of bat is present.
Step 3 – Do not trap the bats, but do your best to exclude them
While trapping the bats may ultimately seem like a good idea, it is not. The truth is that while other pest traps may work, bat traps are simply ineffective and will fail more often than not. The best way to get rid of bats is by exclusion. Most experts tend to cover the openings with nets that the bats are unable to fly through, and leave one opening that they leave through. This way, when the bats leave at nightfall, they will be unable to return inside.
Step 4 – Seal the area
After all the bats have left, permanently seal the areas to prevent another infestation from happening. You may need to call a professional to properly seal the areas if necessary.
Many people don’t take preventative measures until it is too late, and bats have already invaded their homes, but there are steps to take that will guarantee you a bat free home. While some steps may be more thorough than others, here are the major tips to getting rid of bats, and keeping them out of your home for good.
Inspect and seal openings
The first step in preventing bats from re-entering is by ensuring that there are no openings for bats to re-enter through. Most bats will aim to avoid contact with humans, making them unable to enter through any opening where they might encounter human interaction. Therefore, it is important to inspect your home for any opening, no matter how small, and have that opening sealed. Bats are able to go through some of the smallest openings, so leave nothing to chance when it comes to sealing. Also be sure to check every crevice and corner for openings, as smaller openings may not be big enough for bats, but they may be the perfect size for other insects and reptiles.
Prevent bats from re-entering
Once the openings have been sealed, you may even use home remedies to prevent the bats from re-entering. Most of the popular home remedies involve herbal and natural products that may even be readily available in your home, making them bot affordable and highly convenient. These include:
- Cinnamon powder – Sprinkle cinnamon powder where the bats would like to re-enter, and around window sills and any other openings in your house to prevent bats from coming in.
- Peppermint/Eucalyptus Essential Oils – The smell of both these essential oils help to keep bats and other pests at a safe distance. To use as a repellent, simply combine equal parts water and equal parts essential oil in a spray bottle, and apply it to areas where bats and other pests frequent.
- Naphthalene/Moth Balls – Much like the essential oils, the smell of moth balls will be sure to get rid of bats. Because the smell is so pungent, bats will vacate the area never to return, as long as these balls are applied. It is important to note that these balls will vaporize, so you will need to replace them fortnightly.
Let there be light
The main reason that bats love attics and cellars so much is because they provide the same environment as a cave. To change this, simply ensure that your attic gets some light, whether naturally or artificial. A cost effective way of doing this is to hang small mirrors and turn on the lights, or create a sunroof in the attic. This will ensure that the attic gets enough light, which will become uncomfortable i any bat tries to reside there. You may also place aluminium foil in strategic places here they will reflect light for this same effect.
The truth is that bats can become a nuisance if they begin roosting in your home, and may even cause health complications if encountered, which is why these preventative measures may be the smartest way to fix the problem before it arises.