How to Get Rid of Bats
15–18 minutes to read | Updated for 2018
As scary as they may appear, bats are actually quite benign and even shy. Though they may qualify as nuisance pests, knowing their behavior will help you to keep your home environment free of bats while letting them play their pest control role within the food chain.
- All bats have the same general shape and webbed wing structure.
- The larger bats (“megabats”) may carry a wingspan of up to five feet and a weight of slightly more than two pounds. The smaller type (called “microbats”) may have a wingspan of about six inches and weigh less than one ounce.
- A bat’s flight is more sporadic and swooping than a bird’s movements.
- The face may resemble that of a Chihuahua.
- Some bats live together in colonies typically ranging from 100-1,000 individuals. Others are solitary and live alone.
- Roughly 40-50 bat species call the U.S. home, and more than 1,200 species have been discovered worldwide.
There is a balance between a female bat’s slow reproductive rate (one to two babies, called pups, each year) and a bat’s fairly long life (up to 20 years). Yet because females produce few young, and because of predators like hawks, owls, and even snakes, their populations are prone to thinning numbers or extinction.
Mating season occurs during fall, with males and females meeting to breed in hibernation sites. After the pups are born during springtime, groups come together to form maternal colonies. The mothers leave at night to find food and water and return later to nurse. The pups fly away after one month, usually in the summer. Because the young are unaccustomed to flying and to the area in general, they’re the ones most likely to stray into a human residence by accident.
Understanding a Bat’s Behavior
If you are frightened by bats, know that many other people feel the same. Yet when you understand a few of their behaviors, you’ll realize why they’re generally harmless to humans:
- Most North American bats are natural predators to insects. The common bat may eat up to 600 mosquitoes or more per hour – or nearly half its body weight in bugs during a single night. This can help farmers save money on pesticides.
- Why does a bat screech? The technical term is echolocation – a kind of sonar that allows bats to shriek and listen for the echo as a method of nighttime navigation to avoid objects and locate food.
- Bats are the only mammals that can fly. Due to their nocturnal nature, you’ll only see them between dusk and dawn. If a bat flies into your home during daytime, it will be as surprised as you are – and will want to find an exit.
If you encounter one nearby, there is a definite reason. One or more of the following likely applies to your home:
- You live close to a food source. Remember that bats eat insects such as mosquitoes and moths, as well as several kinds of plants and fruits.
- Your home and/or your area offers useful shelter. Darkened and well-shaded locations give bats a place to roost (hang upside-down) during daytime. Indoor roosting sites could include attic space, a barn, roof voids, porch eaves, and even storm drains. Outdoor settings mean caves, hollowed spaces in trees, mine tunnels, and under bridges. Any opening of half an inch or greater is all a bat needs for entry.
- Bats like the temperature and setting.These creatures live all over the world in a variety of geographies: forests, mountains, farmlands, and cities. There are few areas where bats don’t consider at least moderately hospitable. Because much of the U.S. rests in a warm and humid climate, bats will establish roosts in many states.
Different species of bats handle the seasons in different ways, and temperature extremes impact their lives.
Some bats settle into hibernation and do not eat as they live on the fat they’ve accumulated during the year. Bats will cluster as colonies in the same location (called a hibernaculum) each year to preserve body heat. Hibernaculum sites range from barns and attics to caves and tunnels. This behavior doesn’t apply to all bats, however. Some will fly south – up to 200 miles – to spend winter in a milder climate.
Nursery colonies are established as mothers feed their pups and prepare them to fly away. After only one month, pups will take flight. As noted before, a young bat may flutter into a home by accident as it has no knowledge yet of the area.
Summer and Fall
As expected, you won’t see bats in daylight hours. They hide within structures or natural settings from the sun and high temperatures. Mating season starts when the days begin to cool.
Let’s dispel a few ideas that give people unnatural fears about bats…
- Myth:Vampire bats suck human blood.
- Fact: Though vampire bats do suck blood, it’s from deer and cattle.
- Myth:Bats are blind, hence the expression “blind as a bat.”
- Fact: Bats have normal eyesight but do use the echoes from their shrieks to guide their nighttime flights.
- Myth:Bats are filthy, disease-carrying animals.
- Fact: As mentioned above, only in rare cases can bats transmit rabies to humans.
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Signs of Damage
The good news is that no bat can burrow its way into your home. They simply don’t have the strength to create an opening or tear apart any materials inside. Instead, bats enter through existing holes or crevices in a variety of places.
The greatest concern to homeowners should be bat guano (droppings). Their waste can grow mold, which – if not removed – could become a health problem for your family. Should a bat get trapped inside the walls or spaces of your home and die there, the body could decompose and produce a strong odor.
Find Their Homes
Because these flying mammals can’t penetrate your home on their own, they can only enter where there is an opportunity. Typical entry points would include:
- Behind shutters
- Broken or torn screens
- Open soffits
- Openings for pipes or wires
- Under eaves, siding, and shingles
Repair damaged screens and seal off openings with caulk or foam insulation. This prevents your home from becoming a shelter for bats when temperatures change. Be aware that covering these openings should be done near dusk when bats take flight. If done during daytime, you would simply be trapping them within your home.
Whether or not you have dealt with a bat infestation, you should regularly incorporate prevention methods around your property. These are often simple measures that will help keep your home safe and clean.
1. Continuously Monitor Your Home
Everyday wear and tear is inevitable, and even the best built homes are subject to weather and disturbances from wildlife. Bats can enter holes as small as 3/8”, so it’s important to continually monitor for damage on your home’s exterior. The moment an entryway is available, it’s only a matter of time before bats or other pests find their way inside. Your house may not seem ideal for many wildlife, but it can still provide shelter, warmth and food they need to survive.
2. Maintain Exclusion Practices
Bats enjoy quiet, untouched areas, which is why they’re commonly found in places that are high up and away from predators. Try to regularly clean the areas in your home where you usually aren’t active. A loud area or one with more movement will dissuade bats from venturing inside.
Furthermore, make sure you aren’t creating easy entryways. Keep your doors shut when they aren’t being used, and never leave windows cracked open overnight unless you have secure protective screens over them. You can also invest in covers for vents and openings along the outside of your home, such as your chimney opening and dryer vents.
3. Create Alternate Nesting Opportunities
Attracting bats to your property may sound like the last thing you would want to do, but giving them a viable option outside of your home is actually a much better solution than dealing with attic bats or any type of removal process.
You can purchase a bat house online, in stores, or easily create one on your own with simple, cheap materials. These are usually made of wood and provide enough space for several bats to roost while keeping out light and allowing for drainage of their urine and guano. You can hang the bat house high up on a tree where the bats are most likely to fly inside of it.
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With their sharp fangs, cape-like wings and nocturnal nature, it’s no wonder bats have been branded as the vampires of the animal world. While the one species called vampire bats do actually bite animals and drink their blood, most bats live on a diet of insects, fruits, pollen and small amphibians like frogs.
Fortunately, bats aren’t known to be aggressive. Even the species that feed on blood won’t go anywhere near humans. However, bats aren’t very particular about the environment they choose to roost inside. They hang out – literally – in attics, chimneys and overhangs. This brings homeowners a variety of problems like noise, odor, disease, and structural problems from their feces and urine.
A colony of bats in your home will make itself known to you almost immediately. Bats are active at night and have to use echolocation to find their prey, which is similar to sonar. It requires the bats to emit a high-pitched squeaking sound that is then bounced back to them, letting them know where any animals or physical barriers are as they fly.
Bats aren’t reclusive. They leave their shelter at dusk, so they aren’t hard to miss flying out of your attic. You may catch bats during the day if they roost in your attic, when they’ll be hanging upside down and sleeping. You’ll also probably smell the bats before you even see or hear them, as their feces (also called guano) and urine are both very pungent.
If you have discovered bats in your home, stay calm. You can take a few simple steps toward eradicating the problem, although it is always safer to have a trained specialist handle these animals. Bats can carry diseases such as rabies and Histoplasmosis, which you can contract after coming in contact with their guano.
1. Locate Bat Entires
Before beginning any treatment methods, first locate any areas that bats are using to come in and out of your home. This will be an important step so that you can close off these off later on in your treatment plan. To locate these entrances:
• Look for openings in attics and your roof. Bats usually enter buildings in high areas.
• Watch the outside of your building right before sunset, which is when the bats will fly out to hunt for food. Seeing them leave will allow you to isolate the area where they’re coming from.
• Inspect inside your attic or another area where you’ve heard or smelled something. Bats like to hide in dark corners during the day when they roost, but you still might be able to see where they are congregating.
• Once you know the point of entry, you can focus your inspection there rather than spending time going over your entire house.
• Carefully use a ladder and a flashlight to shine into corners and eaves along your roof and windows.
• Any bat entrance will likely be marked with brown stains from grease and oils as well as guano and urine.
Your next step should be to make the bats’ living space as inhospitable as possible so they’ll be encouraged to move elsewhere. You can do this with a variety of options:
- Liquid and gel repellents: Store-bought liquid and gel repellents are made up of a variety of ingredients, but they’re usually non-toxic and drive away bats with their odor and taste. These repellents are easiest to use in spray form so that you can quickly cover every place the bats use. However, wait until they are gone at night before using them. For these products to remain active, you must usually reapply them every 30 days or so, but you should always read the specific instructions beforehand.
- Ultrasonic repellents: Ultrasonic repellents emit high-pitched sound waves that irritate bats and a variety of other pests while remaining undetectable to people. You can purchase different types of these devices in stores or online. These often come with a motion detector so that they only turn on when bats fly nearby, thus saving battery life.
3. Seal Off and Exclude
Once your attic or home has become undesirable to bats, it’s time to exclude them from your property. One-way exclusion devices specifically made for bats are available in stores. They are designed to fit on top of any hole which bats have been using as an entryway. These devices are usually a one-way valve or tube that allows bats to exit the attic without making their way back inside. Use them after you’ve treated your attic with repellents but before you permanently seal off the points of entry.
After using the exclusion devices, you’ll need to perform another inspection similar to the initial one you performed in order to find the bat entrances. On this second inspection, pay more attention to the areas inside your home where the bats were roosting to see if any remain. Also check for any additional holes or cracks outside where more bats could find their way inside.
Once you’ve determined that there are no bats left inside your house, and after you’ve successfully identified all of the areas where they came in, seal off the points of entry to prevent future infestations. This step could require a variety of materials depending on where the holes are – you could require new shingles, wood, plaster, caulk, or even new windowpanes. To be especially sure that the problem is taken care of, you could also hire a contractor to complete a full inspection of your home and use the best materials for the job.
Repelling and excluding bats are the best methods for getting rid of them. Never try to trap or kill them, as this is often illegal and can be very dangerous as the bats will become agitated and can injure you or themselves. Furthermore, removing bat carcasses is much more difficult than excluding the live animals.
If you do happen to come in contact with house bats, visit a doctor immediately if you experience flu-like symptoms. This could be a sign of rabies or another disease carried by the bat.
4. Clean the Affected Areas
The biggest effect of a bat infestation is the damage caused by their waste. Once the bats are gone, immediately turn your attention to cleaning up their mess in order to prevent further damage.
- Before cleaning, dress properly in a long-sleeved shirt and pants while wearing gloves and a face mask or respirator. This will prevent you from coming in direct contact with bat guano, which can transmit a variety of diseases.
- Use a vacuum to collect dried droppings.
- If there are droppings that are stuck to the ground, scrape them off before vacuuming them up.
- Scrub the entire area with a cleaning solution specifically designed to break down biological matter.
- Throw out any affected rugs, carpeting, or furniture that can’t be cleaned.
Cleaning up a previously infested bat area is usually the most dangerous part of dealing with an infestation. Bat urine and guano contains infectious diseases, and it is highly recommended to contact a professional cleaning crew. Homeowner’s insurance may also cover the cost of cleaning and treating your infestation.
Since a bat infestation requires heavy-duty inspection and cleaning, it isn’t an easy do-it-yourself project. However, you can prevent future problems by trying out some DIY repellent recipes and tactics at home:
DIY Essential Oil
- 32 oz. water½ cup sugar
- 20 drops essential oil of your choice (peppermint, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus or mint
ESSENTIAL OIL SPRAY
Bats are averse to many types of essential oils, which they find too strong and unpleasant. You can mix your own essential oil spray to apply liberally throughout the affected area inside your house.
These DIY methods are cheap and effective ways to combat small bat problems, but not enough to treat multiple nests plaguing your home, or even a single large nest.
Bats can be one of the hardest wildlife pests to get rid of. While they most commonly invade attics, a bat colony can easily make their way inside your insulation, vents, and crawl spaces, slowly destroying your walls and foundation. This is why hiring an expert could be your best option. A wildlife control service will perform a full inspection to successfully locate the bats, while also determining their exact species. This enables them to tailor a multi-step, integrated plan for your house and family. These professionals are equipped with the best tools for maintaining their safety while coming in contact with bats and their waste – tools you probably will neither have on hand or want to purchase on your own. A wildlife expert can also partner with contractors and cleaning crews to take care of sealing and cleaning your home without incurring extra costs.
Better yet, many companies offer satisfaction guarantees in which they’ll continue trying methods until the problem has been solved or refund your money.
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