The Dangers of Bats in Your Home

Many people don’t know this, but bats are nature’s very own pest control; they almost exclusively eat insects. That being said, unfortunately, bats don’t make great house guests. We’ll go into the details of why you don’t want bats around the house, but first, here are a few things that you should keep in mind.

Bats are protected by law

Did you know that bat fall under endangered species and are protected by state and Federal laws? The laws not only protect bats but also their homes and habitats as well. Before you get slapped with a hefty fine for hurting the bats or damaging their habitat, contact a local pest control professional that you trust to get the job done humanely.

Remember, it is illegal to kill bats, as most are state protected and some federally protected. It is also illegal to use any type of poisons or chemicals for batsBat exclusion measures should not be performed from mid-May through early-August, as there may be young bats in the colony that are still unable to fly.

All bat species, their breeding sites, and resting places are fully protected by law – they’re European protected species. You may be able to get a license from Natural England if you can’t avoid disturbing them or damaging their habitats, or if you want to survey or conserve them.

There are 16 species of bats in Virginia. Three (Gray Bat, Indiana Bat, and Virginia-Big-eared Bat) are federally endangered. One, the Rafinesque’s Big-eared Bat, is state endangered, and the remaining 12 are
non-game protected species in Virginia.

During the day bats sleep in trees, rock crevices, caves, and buildings. Bats are nocturnal (active at night), leaving daytime roosts at dusk. Upon leaving their roost, bat fly to a stream, pond, or lake where they dip their lower jaw into the water while still in flight and take a drink.

Identify if you have bats

Many people don’t know this, but bats are nature’s very own pest control; they almost exclusively eat insects. That being said, unfortunately, bats don’t make great house guests. We’ll go into the details of why you don’t want bats around the house, but first, here are a few things that you should keep in mind: usually the first pest that gets into homes, but it isn’t unheard of.

If you’re brave enough to get up into the attic and take a look around, you’ll first want to identify if you really have bats and locate where they’re getting in. Bats can squeeze through entry points that are as small as 3/8ths of an inch thick. Any holes or damage to your house can be an entry point. Look for bat guano (guano is the solidified excrement of seabirds and bats), urine or bat activity to identify if you have bats.

Bats usually mean a bigger maintenance issue

Bats don’t bore or chew through property like mice or squirrels do. Instead, they generally find their way into homes through existing holes and entry points. If you’ve identified a bat infestation in the home, it generally means that you have some maintenance issue that needs to be addressed. Exuding bats may not be a permanent fix until you’ve got the core of the issue resolved; how they’re getting in.

What dangers does a bat in the house pose?

In small numbers, bats aren’t much of a problem. It’s when the colony grows in size that real problems start to occur, and they mostly have to do with guano buildup. However, even if you only have a small colony, it’s best to deal with it as soon as possible. Bats live a very long time, and they stay in the same place basically forever (thousands of years, conditions permitting). The colony grows larger every year, as the female bats have babies each summer, and those babies join the colony.

After a period of years, you can have thousands of bats, and that’s where the problems start. Problems caused by bats in houses range from minor to life-threatening. Hearing occasional squeaking or the rustling of bat wings in your attic, chimney, or walls can be a nuisance, and even a bit unsettling. It is also disturbing to find a baby or adult bat in the living areas of your home.

If a bat is stuck and dies somewhere in your walls or elsewhere in your home, you may smell the unpleasant stench of the decaying bat. These problems are minor, but should not be ignored because eventually larger problems will develop.

Some bats have rabies – It is true that some species of bats carry rabies as do many small animals, but the cases that humans were infected with rabies are so small in comparison to other transmitted diseases that it creates very little threat. There have only been forty-four deaths from rabies in the last fifty-five years. Of these deaths, only one was from the common house bat found in the United States.

Most of the others were contributed to a tree-roosting species. If a person is bitten by a bat or any wild animal it is best to clean the area and seek medical attention. If a bat is found on the ground that it may have rabies and should be left alone.

 A bat can carry insects

Bats naturally eat insects, but they can bring them inside as well. Bat-mites are insects that are very similar in nature to bedbugs. They’re parasitic, they remain hidden in nooks and crannies and they can spread unbelievably quickly throughout a house or building. The type of bugs they carry are mites, fleas and bat bugs. These insects feed on all of the bat species found in Virginia, Maryland and DC and are most frequently associated with bats that roost in colonies, such as the Brown Bat. Bat bugs are a specific species of insect that is related to the bedbug that afflicts humans.

A bat can cause indirect damage over time

Bat droppings and urine can build up over time and begin to leak through drywall, destroy ceilings, and ruin insulation. We’ve even seen structural collapses as enough excrement builds up over time. Even though bats can often be less intimidating than infestations of other kinds, they should be dealt with immediately. Remember, bats are protected by state and Federal laws, so you should always leave the matter to a licensed professional.

For obvious reasons, the main concern is the diseases that can be spread by bats. Luckily, bat diseases are few and they are rare. The two major concerns are the lung disease histoplasmosis which can come from the bat guano, and the rabies virus, which comes from being bitten by an infected bat in its virulent stage.

What are the signs and symptoms of histoplasmosis?

The most common symptoms are:

  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • A cough
  • Fever
  • Joint pain and stiffness
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Rash (usually small sores on the lower legs.)
  • Shortness of breath

The most severe and rarest form of this disease is disseminated histoplasmosis, which involves spreading of the fungus to other organs outside the lungs. Disseminated histoplasmosis is fatal if untreated, but death can also occur in some patients even when medical treatment is received.

The most common way that healthcare providers test for histoplasmosis is by taking a blood sample or a urine sample and sending it to a laboratory. Healthcare providers may do imaging tests such as chest x-rays or CT scans of your lungs.

Most cases of histoplasmosis are mild, and symptoms go away in 10 days without treatment. Sometimes symptoms may last for several weeks. In the most severe cases, particularly when the infection spreads throughout the body, a person may need to take antifungal medications for a long time.

The disease is acquired by inhaling the spore stage of the fungus. Outbreaks may occur in groups with common exposures to bird or bat droppings or recently disturbed, contaminated soil found in chicken coops, caves, etc.
Person-to-person spread of histoplasmosis does not occur.

Will a bat house prevent bats in your home?

Bat houses are a nice way to enrich the exterior of your home and front yard and do a favor to bats and ecosystem at the same time. Both, bat-lovers and homeowners looking to protect their home from bat infestation, are looking for the right ways to design and install a bat house that will be comfortable and appealing to these tender mammals.

Those who simply love bats and look forward to having them living on their estate are putting great efforts into finding the perfect design for a bat house that will fit the animal’s needs so that the colony would find it appealing to roost in it. There are also those who are looking to use the bat houses to keep the bats away from their home.

Sadly, most people fail in their attempt to keep bats within their own house so that they wouldn’t roost in their home. The reasons for that are numerous, but the most obvious one is that creating, purchasing and maintaining an adequate bat house is a lot harder than it seems. It requires someone to know the nature, habits, and needs of the bat very well, like a bat lover or an enthusiast.

A lot of bat houses that are sold in stores or online are not well-designed and adjusted to the needs of bats, and those that are, are hard to spot and recognize unless a person is a bat enthusiast.

Even if you manage to build or purchase a good quality house, proper placement is a difficult task. Bats need a house that is warm, but not hot. This means that it needs to be located in a place that has at least 7 hours of early morning alight. Bats like quiet places, so the house will need to be away from traffic. Bats don’t like to be disturbed, so the house will need to be in a remote part of the estate.

Also, bats need a permanent source of water and house of proper height, with a landing plate of adequate size installed. When we consider all of these together, it becomes clear that finding a proper place for a bat house is a difficult task. In most cases, bat houses fail to deter bats from entering homes.

What do you do if you see evidence of a bat?

If you see, hear, or smell evidence of bats in your home, you first need to figure out where they are entering your home. Then you will need to remove the bats from your home and prevent them from returning and return they will if your home is not sealed off properly. If your attic is very warm, or if you live in an area that is warm all year, the bats will never leave, except to go out each night to feed. If you live in an area that is colder seasonally, the bats may migrate for the winter, but they will return when the weather warms up again.

To find the entry point, or points, of your home, look for evidence of bat guano or urine on the exterior of your house. If there is a lot of guano on a particular wall or an area of your roof then that is likely where the entry point can be found. The same is true for urine stains; if you see a lot in one area, it is likely that the bats are entering and exiting very near that spot. You can watch your house at dusk and wait for the bats to exit your house on their nightly hunt for food. They will almost always leave as a large group, so if you are looking in the right spot, you won’t miss them.

If you can’t catch them exiting, examine your home closely for areas where the bats may be entering and exiting. You will likely need a tall ladder for this as bats prefer heights where they are safe from predators and they have room to take flight. Bats can squeeze through an opening that is only 3/8 of an inch large, so you must be meticulous in your search. Common entry points are ridge caps, vents, and gaps in eaves and fascia boards. You should also examine thoroughly any areas of your roof or structure that may be damaged, allowing for bat access. This could be a broken window, loose board or piece of siding, or a missing or broken brick.

It is illegal to fumigate bats or to hurt them. It is also illegal to seal bats out of your home during seasons when there could be flightless baby bats still in the roost. You need to get the bats out, and you need to seal off the entry points, but these things must be done legally and humanely. You can wait until the babies are grown and are flying out nightly, and seal your home then. You can also wait until they migrate, and have your home sealed off before they come back.

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