Well, that's just bats!
April 10, 2013 6:36 PM   Subscribe

We apparently have bats in our attic. Should we call a pest removal service, or can we put up our own exclusion trap over the attic vent?

I can hear them chattering away from the louvered attic vent from the outside, right around dusk, and I can see them coming and going from same in the evening, but we can neither hear nor smell them inside. The attic is very tiny, and not used for storage... I haven't needed to go up there since we moved in last May.

I understand we can't kill them, and that if it's too late in the spring, exclusion traps will result in dead bat babies stinking up the house all summer.

Is it too late in spring? Can it wait until late summer/autumn, or will they completely trash the attic by then? Or is this something that just shouldn't be done DIY?
posted by Slap*Happy to Home & Garden (13 answers total)
Not a great idea to do it yourself. Call the pros.

Two reasons: 1. Bats can carry rabies. 2. Bat droppings can be dangerous to breath.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:55 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you call a pest control service (which would be my reccommendation), make sure it's a humane one: bats are lovely creatures that will eat bugs flying around your house. They're fun to watch, too. If I didn't live in an apartment, I would surely have a bathouse!
posted by Edna Million at 6:59 PM on April 10, 2013 [5 favorites]

Seconding Chocolate Pickle. Get the experts in to look after them. This can't wait, either, especially when they carry disease.
posted by MeatheadBrokeMyChair at 7:00 PM on April 10, 2013

In a place I rented in NC, calling professional pest control was the only way to go since bats are a protected species there, and may be where you are as well. In our case they had to wait for warmer weather and install exclusion traps in the eaves of the house to keep the bats out. So, yes, I'd call them and let them come out and deal with it.
posted by littlerobothead at 7:11 PM on April 10, 2013

My mom's neighbors are evacuating an attic of bats this past week or so. The removal service is up there in protective suits, carrying the very cranky little critters out in cages. I'd call a service like that, as well. They know what to do to get them out and prevent them from getting back in. Bats are clever; it's good to have experts around foiling their little bat plots. And the humane angle is nice, too.
posted by Coatlicue at 7:34 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

The CDC says:
Histoplasmosis is another disease associated with bats. Its symptoms vary greatly, but the disease primarily affects the lungs. Occasionally, other organs are affected. When this happens it can be fatal if untreated.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:37 PM on April 10, 2013

We had bats in our attic for much of my childhood. The pest control people would come, the bats would be gone, and then --- WHAM! Spring --> more bats.

So, call the pest control people. Diseases, yadda yadda yadda.

BUT... the thing that actually got rid of the bats for the long haul? One of the pest control people suggested putting big clumps of peanut butter around the attic after they treated. We did that (like you, we never actually used the attic for anything). Never saw a bat in the house again.
posted by eenagy at 7:48 PM on April 10, 2013

So, call the pest control people. Diseases, yadda yadda yadda.

We had bats with rabies living in the silo of the house I grew up in and we all had to move out for a week while they exterminated them. I am one of those people who says "Eat it!" in AskMe all the time, but I'd suggest getting the pros to do this one.
posted by jessamyn at 8:07 PM on April 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best to call wildlife movers, as others have suggested. Then get a humane pest control company to pinpoint all of the potential entry points on your place and advise you on how to block them off.
posted by batmonkey at 8:09 PM on April 10, 2013

I live southwest of Boston. I caught a bat in my living room last year and turned it over to animal control. The officer told me it would need to be killed and sent to the state for rabies testing. She said the tests almost never come back positive, but it's routine.

This bat did test positive. In the next forty-eight hours I got separate calls from town, county, and state officials asking for details of the encounter and giving me instructions on rabies testing and treatment. It was treated like a big deal.

I mention this because if you're in the same geographic region, it might be relevant to you. Based on that experience, if I had another bat problem, I would call a professional immediately or at least within twenty-four hours.
posted by cribcage at 9:12 PM on April 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Bats are a protected species in many places since their natural habitats are being destroyed. They are also very beneficial, since they eat mosquitoes, which are also carriers of nasty illnesses (not just malaria). A single bat can eat 1000 (one thousand) mosquitoes in one hour.

Bat houses are very easy to make since they prefer hard, untreated (no paint or stain, they can kill bats) wood.

While rabies is a scary disease, it is more scary than dangerous. From Bats and rabies:
"No subject has generated more misinformation and fear about bats than rabies. So let's look at the facts. Worldwide, more than 55,000 people are estimated to die of rabies each year (World Health Organization), primarily from contacts with rabid dogs. In industrialized countries, most dogs and cats are now vaccinated against rabies, and the disease is rare in humans and usually results from contact with rabid wildlife, particularly bats. In the United States from 1995 through 2009, an average of two people per year have died of rabies associated with bats.

"With proper education, the presence of bats does not pose public health conflicts. For example, approximately 1½ million Mexican free-tailed bats live under the Congress Avenue Bridge in downtown Austin, Texas. A well-publicized tourist attraction, the bridge bats attract tens of thousands of people each summer to watch the bats emerge in the evenings on their nightly insect hunts. No human case of bat-transmitted rabies has ever been recorded in Austin or surrounding communities."
They also address histoplasmosis on that same page:
Histoplasmosis is a respiratory disease caused by a fungus that grows in soil enriched by animal droppings, including those from bats. Ninety percent of all reported cases in humans come from the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys and adjacent areas where warm, humid conditions favor fungal growth. The disease is rare or nonexistent in most of Canada and in the far northern and western United States. The majority of cases are asymptomatic or involve flu-like symptoms, though some individuals become seriously ill, especially if exposed to large quantities of spore-laden dust. To be safe, avoid breathing dust in areas where there are animal droppings; if you must clean an area of bat or bird droppings, wear a respirator that can guard against particles as small as two microns.
So. To answer the question, check and see if you have a local bat conservancy group, or your local humane society, and request information from them. There is no more need to panic about strange bats than about strange cats and dogs.

I have handled two bats in the last two years, fwiw, one in France and the other in Australia. (MeFite honey-barbara showed herself a very gracious host when I returned to her place during the night with a disoriented bat on a flyer. I'd found it chirping anxiously and "walking" on a sidewalk, unable to fly. Miss Bat eventually took up temporary residence in a crack on honey-barbara's patio, and was gone the next morning, we hope after having recovered.)
posted by fraula at 1:53 AM on April 11, 2013 [7 favorites]

I second the bat-house recommendation. Keep in mind that a south-facing wall in the winter, and a north-facing wall in the summer will help the bats out, when dealing with heating and cooling issues. We use the flattish models, as they are compact and can be placed on many walls without being obtrusive.
posted by mule98J at 12:05 PM on April 11, 2013

My experience with bats in my attic in a house in Pennsylvania was that they did not in any way trash the attic. We coexisted with them for several years, and the damage in the attic was limited to a small pile of very dry droppings on the floor under the roosting spot.

We did have a problem with the pest removal company the landlords hired to manage the situation - they never successfully managed to exclude the bats, and they did things (like put nets and glue traps in the attic) that were prohibited in PA. So my experience is that a company that claims they humanely manage bats according to state regulations was lying. One good option for information is to contact wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organizations in your area - they may be able to advise you about when there will be babies, or recommend a company that they have confidence in. I just had great success getting information that way, and have found a pest control person who just today set humane traps for the possums that are currently living under my house. Once she catches them they will go to the wildlife rescue for relocation.
posted by periscope at 5:52 PM on April 11, 2013

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