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Bats in your belfry? Call Frank

No, I'm not writing this article to ridicule someone who has done something stupid. Instead, it's about a common call we get as county agents. In fact, one of our previous wildlife specialists estimated that Georgia county agents get about 2,000 calls a year from people wanting to rid their buildings of bats. This summer, I think a lot of those calls originated right here in McDuffie County.

Bats love to roost in attics, hollow walls and other dark, out-of-the-way places in buildings. The smell of bat droppings in an attic can be nauseating. Bats can carry bedbugs and other ectoparasites. There have also been cases of disease outbreaks where people were in constant contact with these type of conditions. There haven't been any outbreaks like this in our area, but anyone who may have to clean up such an area needs to be aware of the potential danger.

Are there bats in your attic? How do you get rid of them? The only permanent way to be free from the bat roost nuisance is to shut the bats out.

To shut bats out of a building, find the openings where bats enter. Look for cracks, louvers, knot holes or torn screens. Any crack big enough to admit a pencil can let bats in. Most bats can enter a hole the size of a quarter. Look for openings with "dirty edges" where bats have been squeezing through. Check walls and the ground for bat droppings. They are like a mouse dropping but shiny and with pointed ends. Unlike mouse droppings, they often stick to surfaces.

Next, encourage the bats to leave. Try lights. Bats don't like to sleep with the lights on. Occasionally, I've heard of people having success running off bats with napthalene moth crystals. A word of caution - if you try this, put the crystals in stockings so you can remove them if they cause a problem. I do know of one case where a family threw an abundant supply of moth balls in their attic and then had to move out because they couldn't tolerate the smell. Some people are more sensitive to certain things than others and you might be one of those people.

After bats leave, go to work to seal all openings. Stuff stainless steel scouring pads in cracks. Then caulk over them. If bats won't leave, simply close the openings soon after it becomes dark when the bats are out for their evening meal. Another possibility is a one way device. These devices are placed over the bat's known entry points and allow them to leave but won't let them get back in.

The best season for closing bats out is late summer or early fall(right now). In early summer many young bats will remain in the attic. Their mothers return several times each night to feed them. If you block bats in, they will die . . . and stink. If you wait for cold weather, the bats won't leave. They hibernate in the attic all winter.

Most people complain when I give them this advice about how to deal with bats. They're wanting information on a spray or something that will quickly and effortlessly solve the problem. I wish I could suggest a miracle cure, but there just aren't any when it comes to this situation.



Web posted on Thursday, September 1, 2005











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