Did You Know?
“A single Big Brown Bat can eat between 3,000 and 7,000 mosquitoes in a night, with large populations of bats consuming thousands of tons of potentially harmful forest and agricultural pests annually.”
Source: NCSU Cooperative Extension
Bats are amazing creatures. And yet for many people finding out they have bats in their home is scary!
Some people tell us they find bats to be very cute. Others express terror, calling them flying mice.
Believe it or not, many homes we visit that have bats have had them for many years. They often go unnoticed. Often their presence is not known until someone goes into the attic and sees them, or a home inspector comes in during a pre-sale. Other times people just suddenly notice bats flying in and out of a gable vent or other structure on the roof or roof edge.
No matter how we feel about bats, for most of us, once they are in our home structure we want them out.
These animals are essential in insect control and crop protection, yet when they show up at your house all bets are off. Most people want them out asap! When we speak to people about bats, we often are asked questions such as,
“How are bats getting in?”
“How do you get bats out?”
“I heard bats have a maternity season where you cannot do anything with them.”
“Don’t they have rabies?”
“Do we need to get a vaccine if there is one in our home?”
“I know they are beneficial. How can we help them?”
“Are all bats endangered?”
“Are there any bats in NC that drink blood?”
“Bats eat bugs, right?”
“What is white-nose syndrome and how does it affect bats?”
These are common questions, and very reasonable ones too. Bats have been the topic of myth, rumor, and misunderstanding for millennia. The answers to these questions in short are as follows.
How bats end up in homes
Bats like cavities. In nature they roost in tree cavities, cracks in rocks, caves, etc. In peoples’ homes the most common roost is on the exterior of the gable vent. A gable vent is at the top of the side of the house at the peak of the roof. It is often a triangle or rectangle shape. The gable vents are usually made of louvered wooden slats spaced approximately 2-3’ apart. The inside of the gable vent is covered in a bug screen. When bats fly into the gable, they hang on the exterior of the gable screen.
In many cases the bats find a hole in the screen or the screen is dislodged or missing. Holes in the screen can be caused by wasp nests. Wasps will build a mud dauber nest on the screen. Eventually, a wasp nest falls off the screen leaving a hole the size as small as a golf ball or larger than your fist. Bats will enter the attic through the openings in the screens. Sometimes, once in the attic, bats get disoriented and cannot find their way out. They may look for other ways out of the attic and find their way into your living space. If they cannot get out, bats will die in the attic, your walls, or inside your home.
Bats will also find small openings along the roof edges or into the eaves or soffits. Whether in an attic or eave, bat guano can pile up, creating a mess of these spaces, and soiling insulation, and even cause wood rot in the soffit.
How to get them out
Bats cannot be trapped or killed. Bats can be passively excluded. Once we know how they are getting in and out, we use devices and materials that allow them to leave, but not reenter. Once the bats are out, the access points will be repaired, sealed, or reinforced to permanently prevent entry. Clean up of bat droppings, called guano, can be done once the bats are out.
Yes, this is true. In NC from May 1st – August 1st, bats form maternity colonies. This colony is entirely female. Each female bat usually has one pup. Since they are mammals, bats nurse their pups. When the adults leave to go forage at night the pups are left behind. Any exclusion work done during this period will separate the mothers from the pups. This would cause the pups to try frantically to get out. They will either perish due to starvation and dehydration, or as they are dying find a way into the interior of the house. They are often found in a sink or tub looking for water. The mother bats will also search frantically, trying to get back in. Clearly this is not a good situation. To avoid disruption the rearing of pups bats cannot be excluded from May 1st to August 1st.
Do bats have rabies?
Not all bats have rabies. A small percentage of bats can carry the rabies virus. Most bats do not have rabies.
“Despite misconceptions, rabies is not very common in bats. Less than 3% of bats tested in NC have the virus. However, it is important to remember that bats can become infected. Therefore use caution when you encounter one.” Source: NC Wildlife Resources Commission:
We neither want to vilify bats or downplay the dangers of rabies. 3 in 100 bats could have rabies in NC according to NC Wildlife Resource Commission. The CDC states 6% nationally. This means 94-97% of bats do not have rabies!
Direct contact with their saliva is required to contact rabies. You cannot get rabies from bat guano.
If you wake up with a bat in your living space, call you family doctor and your county’s Public Health Department for professional medical information and advice.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report the following facts about the rabies virus in bats.
“Most bats don’t have rabies. For example, even among bats submitted for rabies testing because they could be captured, were obviously weak or sick, or had been captured by a cat, only about 6% had rabies.
Just looking at a bat, you can’t tell if it has rabies. Rabies can only be confirmed in a laboratory. But any bat that is active by day or is found in a place where bats are not usually seen like in your home or on your lawn, just might be rabid. A bat that is unable to fly and is easily approached could very well be sick.
Rabies is a fatal disease. Each year, tens of thousands of people are successfully protected from developing rabies through vaccination after being bitten by an animal, or like a bat that may have rabies. There are usually only one or two human rabies cases each year in the United States, and the most common way for people to get rabies is through contact with a bat.
Those people didn’t recognize the risk of rabies from the bite of a wild animal, particularly a bat, and they didn’t seek medical advice. Awareness of the facts about bats and rabies can help people protect themselves, their families, and their pets. This information may also help clear up misunderstandings about bats.
Teach children never to handle unfamiliar animals, wild or domestic, even if they appear friendly. “Love your own, leave other animals alone” is a good principle for children to learn.
Wash any wound from an animal thoroughly with soap and water and seek medical attention immediately.
Have all dead, sick, or easily captured bats been tested for rabies if exposure to people or pets occurs?
Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas where they might come in contact with people and pets.
Rabies in humans is rare in the United States. There are usually only one or two human cases per year. But the most common source of human rabies in the United States is from bats. For example, among the 19 naturally acquired cases of rabies in humans in the United States from 1997-2006, 17 were associated with bats. Among these, 14 patients had known encounters with bats. Four people awoke because a bat landed on them and one person awoke because a bat bit him. In these cases, the bat was inside the home.
One person was reportedly bitten by a bat from outdoors while he was exiting from his residence. Six people had a history of handling a bat while removing it from their home. One person was bitten by a bat while releasing it outdoors after finding it on the floor inside a building. One person picked up and tried to care for a sick bat found on the ground outdoors. Three men ages 20, 29 and 64 had no reported encounters with bats but died of bat-associated rabies viruses.
Why didn’t these people get the rabies vaccine?
In some cases, persons who died of rabies knew they were bitten by a bat. They didn’t go to a doctor, maybe because they didn’t know that bats can have rabies and transmit it through a bite.
In other cases, it’s possible that young children may not fully awaken due to the presence of a bat (or its bite) or may not report a bite to their parents.
For example, one 4-year-old patient, who died of rabies, was still sleeping when her caregivers checked on her because they heard strange noises. They found a bat on the floor of her bedroom. She was most likely bitten and did not fully awaken. This patient developed tingling and itching on her neck at what was probably the site of a bat bite as she became sick with rabies a few weeks later.
In another case, a 10-year-old child removed a bat from his bedroom without adult supervision and several months later developed tingling and itching on his arm and one side of his head as he became sick with rabies.
Silver-haired bats often roost in tree cavities or in bark crevices on tree trunks, especially during migration. Their unique coloration makes them difficult to find. Most recent human rabies deaths have been due to a strain of rabies associated with this species.
People often know when they’ve been bitten by a bat, but most types of bats have very small teeth which may leave marks that disappear quickly.
If you are bitten by a bat — or if infectious material (such as saliva or brain material if it is killed) from a bat gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound — wash the affected area thoroughly with soap and water and get medical advice immediately. Whenever possible, the bat should be captured and sent to a laboratory for rabies testing.
People can’t get rabies just from seeing a bat in an attic, in a cave, at summer camp, or from a distance while it is flying. In addition, people can’t get rabies from having contact with bat guano (feces), blood, or urine, or from touching a bat on its fur.
If you think your pet has been bitten by a bat, contact a veterinarian or your health department for assistance immediately and have the bat tested for rabies. Remember to keep vaccinations current for cats, dogs, and other animals.
NC Bat Species:
Big brown bat
Eastern Red Bat
Eastern Small-footed Bat
Little Brown Myotis
Mexican Free-tailed Bat
Northern Long-eared Bat*
Northern Yellow Bat
Rafinesque's Big-eared Bat
Virginia Big-eared Bat*
* federally listed as threatened or endangered
Source: NCSU Extension
What is white-nose syndrome and how does it affect bats?
Like many animal species, loss of habitat is causing significant declines in their populations. In addition, many bat species in the Eastern US have contracted White Nose Syndrome. This was brought over in the early 2000’s by a person, after visiting caves in Europe. In Europe, this fungus did not harm the bats. The fungus was introduced to a cave in NY. Here bats contracted White Nose Syndrome and began to decimate the population of several species. To prevent the spread of WNS while working in homes, we use disposable personal protective gear. We also bag and disinfect all of our tools between jobs.
For more information about bats and White Nose Syndrome click on these links:
NC Wildlife Resource Commission
Bat Conservation International
You Can Help Bats with Bat Houses
To help offset habit loss and in exchange for excluding bats, we at Humane Homes Wildlife Removal will provide FREE INSTALLATION of a bat house when you buy the bat house. We can make recommendations for bat houses and the best location for installation. For more information on Bat Houses visit Bat Conservation International’s Website.
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