The most common bat in North America is the little brown bat, myotis lucifugus, so for our purposes we will use them as our template. The order Chiroptera (Greek for “hand wing”) includes over 1300 species, making them the 2nd most common group of mammals after order Rodentia. Bats can be as tiny as the appropriately named bumblebee bat or as large as the tropical flying fox, which has a wingspan of over 5’.
North American bats are generally carnivorous (though some species also eat fruit and nectar) and prey on insects. They live in colonies which can include thousands if there is enough housing. Bats can live for up to 30 years in the wild and form tight family bonds. They hibernate during the winter when there is little food.
Where to Find Bats
Places like caves and abandoned buildings are bats’ main habitats. Bats like dry, sheltered environments with a roof they can hang from and room to fly, making your attic prime real estate for bats. As many bats as can fit will inhabit a space as good roosts are a hot commodity.
Problems with Bats
Bats are good creatures to have in your neighborhood as they eat mosquitoes (one bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour), but they are not good to have in your house. Their guano is smelly, spreads bacteria, and is food for other pests.
Having bats flying around can be frightening, but humans are not usually at physical risks from bats. They do not typically carry rabies, but in the slim chance that you are bitten or scratched by a bat, wash the wound and contact a doctor immediately, as they can carry other diseases. Thankfully, vampire bats prefer livestock, not humans.
Signs of a Bat Infestation
If there is a musty stink coming from your attic, that might be bat guano. Bats also leave their shelter to hunt at night, so watch for bats flying out of your house at sunset and back at dawn. Listen for rustling or flapping sounds coming from the attic.
Preventing Bat Problems
The best way to prevent bat problems is to make sure that they do not have a habitat in your home, which is usually the attic. Your local pest professional can make recommendations on how to seal your home from the entry points that bats and other pests need. If you have a dead or hollow tree on your property that poses no danger and is a safe distance away from structures, consider leaving it as a bat habitat.
Getting Rid of Bats
If you’d like to have bats around but not inside, consider installing a bat house. A bat house is a box-shaped structure commonly made of wood that has vertical surfaces inside for the bats to hang from. The entryway is at the bottom as bats must fall into flight. These can go high on the side of your house or on a tree or outbuilding. Bats are important parts of our ecosystem, and some species are endangered, so we maintain a cordial relationship with them. We safely and humanely remove bats as we do not want to hurt them.