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Bats may help control the insect population, but that doesn’t mean people want them in their homes. These critters can roost in your attic, endangering your house and health. We’ll walk you through do-it-yourself (DIY) and professional options for how to get rid of bats and keep them from coming back.
Signs of a Bat Infestation
The first step in dealing with your bat problem is recognizing the signs of bats. Here’s what to watch for:
- Droppings: One apparent sign is the presence of bat feces, known as guano, in your attic or near potential entry points. Bat droppings are small, dark pellets that look similar to other rodent droppings. Unlike other droppings, bat guano crumbles into a powdery substance when touched. It may also be shiny or speckled.
- Noises: You may hear scratching or squeaking sounds just before dusk and dawn. Bats are nocturnal, so you’re more likely to hear them crawling or flying at night.
- Odors: Although you might not notice the smell of guano or urine from a single bat, the odors caused by a colony of bats are noticeable. Their urine has a strong ammonia smell that homeowners have described as musty, acrid, or pungent.
- Sightings: If you stand outside your home at dusk, you may see bats exiting their roost. You might also find them roosting or hibernating in your attic, shed, or garage.
- Stains: Bats leave dark, oily stains around their entry and exit points. You might also see milky white bat urine stains.
Health and Safety Risks
A bat infestation poses serious health risks to your family and pets. Bats are known carriers of rabies, a fatal virus transmitted through bites or scratches. According to the CDC, bats account for at least 70% of human rabies deaths in the United States, including three deaths in five weeks in 2021. Rabid bats have been found in every state except Hawaii.
Bat guano also contains the fungal spores that cause histoplasmosis, a potentially life-threatening respiratory infection. Bats can also harbor parasites, such as bed bugs, fleas, ticks, or mites.
Cleaning up after a bat infestation can be costly and dangerous. Over time, guano and urine can soak into the boards, beams, drywall, and insulation, causing stubborn stains and odors. Bat droppings are highly corrosive and can weaken structural elements by eating through wood, metal, paint, and other building materials.
DIY Bat Removal
Before trying any DIY bat removal methods, research local, state, and federal regulations. A few types of bats are considered protected species by the federal government, and many states and municipalities have specific rules regarding bat removal.
It helps to know which bat species you are dealing with. Some species of bats migrate, which means they may leave on their own accord when seasons change. Other bats hibernate, such as the little brown bat and the big brown bat.
One effective and simple DIY method involves exclusion devices, such as one-way doors, bat valves, or mesh. These devices allow bats to exit their roosting areas without giving them a way back in.
If you go this route, waiting until late summer or early fall is important because young bats will be mature enough to leave. Otherwise, bat parents will be trapped outside while their babies are stuck inside.
As you search for entry points, remember that bats can squeeze into openings as small as 3/4 inches. Fill almost all holes you find with caulk or another sealant, leaving only one or two open with bat exclusion devices installed.
Sometimes, a bat may find its way into your living space. In this case, you can manually remove it.
First, move pets and children to another room and close the interior doors. Then, open an exterior door or window to allow the bat to escape. The bat may exit on its own. If not, grab a plastic tub, thick work gloves, and a piece of cardboard. Wait for the bat to land, place the container over it, and work the cardboard underneath to trap it inside. Carry the container outside and tilt it toward a tree so the bat can climb out.
Never handle a bat with your bare hands. Avoid using a towel, which could snag the bat’s claws, or cotton, which bats can bite through. Do not attempt manual removal of bats roosting in your attic; instead, call your local wildlife control agency or a wildlife removal company.
Repellents and Deterrents
Bat repellents and deterrents are natural substances or devices that bats find unpleasant. Since bats like dark spaces, bright lights can be an effective deterrent. High-frequency sound emitters, or ultrasonic devices, can disturb their ears and echolocation abilities. You can also use mothballs, peppermint, eucalyptus, and other strongly scented essential oils as repellents.
Place or apply deterrents near potential entry points and roosting sites to make those areas less appealing. The effectiveness may vary depending on the species of bat involved.
Professional Bat Removal
Although DIY methods can be effective for minor bat problems, some situations call for professional assistance.
When to Hire a Professional
Depending on state law and the species involved, DIY bat removal may not be an option. Consider hiring professionals for large colonies and difficult-to-access locations.
You can find a qualified and licensed bat removal expert through local directories, an online search, or recommendations from local wildlife agencies. Consider their experience, licensing, insurance, and approach when choosing a professional. Top pest control companies, such as Orkin and Terminix, offer bat control and removal services.
What to Expect from a Professional Service
A professional bat removal service will start with a thorough property inspection. The technician will identify the species of bat, their entry points, and the infestation’s extent. They will then proceed with an exclusion strategy.
After removing the bats, cleanup and decontamination are crucial. Professionals can safely remove bat guano and urine to prevent health risks such as histoplasmosis. This process might also require the replacement of contaminated building materials or insulation. Finally, a professional service will implement measures to keep bats away in the future.
Hiring a professional is more expensive than a DIY approach but is also a more comprehensive solution. The cost of pest control is a worthwhile investment in your home and family’s safety.
How to Prevent a Bat Infestation
While bat removal is essential, prevention is always better than a cure. Here’s how to prevent bats from invading your home in the first place.
Seal Gaps or Openings in Your Home
Regularly inspect your property for cracks, crevices, and gaps. Pay special attention to your chimney, roof, eaves, and vents. Use caulk to close smaller openings and install metal flashing or mesh screens. Use hardware cloth over larger areas.
Maintain a Clean and Clutter-Free Environment
Regularly remove potential food sources, such as insect-attracting trash or compost. Trim tree branches near your property to eliminate easy access points for bats and keep your home’s exterior well-lit and clutter-free.
A bat infestation can pose health risks and even cause structural damage to your home. If you recognize the signs of a bat infestation, immediately take action to remove them and prevent their return. Implement the DIY strategies outlined or hire a professional pest control company.
How to Get Rid of Bats FAQ
Does one bat mean more?
Seeing one bat does not necessarily mean there are more. However, its presence could indicate that your home is attractive and accessible to bats. If you find a bat inside your home, inspecting your attic and other secluded areas for signs of a bat infestation is a good idea.
How long does it take to get rid of a bat infestation?
Getting rid of a bat infestation can take as little as a few days or as long as a few months. The length of time depends on the colony size, the roosting location, the species, the season, and legal restrictions.
What smell do bats hate?
Bats hate the smell of mothballs. They also dislike peppermint, eucalyptus, and other strong-smelling essential oils.
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