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Dabugman Says: Ya Got Bats in Ya'lls Belfry!

Dabugman Says
Ya Got Bats in Ya'lls Belfry!

Nearly 1,000 species of bats are known throughout the world, and approximately forty species inhabit the United States. Bats live in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, fields, forests, cities, and suburbs. All bats eat insects and capture their prey in flight. They usually feed in open areas where insects swarm, such as over open water, in forest clearings or farm fields, and around streetlights. Bats are beneficial because they are efficient predators of insects. A single bat, for instance, may consume as many as 2,000 insects every night. Because flying insects are not active during the winter months, bats must either hibernate or migrate to survive the winter. Hibernating bats survive on a very small amount of stored fat during the five- to six-month hibernation period. Bats arouse from hibernation during March and migrate to their summer roosts in April. Pregnant females seek sheltered roosts for their pups in buildings, tree cavities, and tree foliage. In some species, females gather together prior to giving birth and form maternity colonies. Each bat gives birth to one to two pups in late May and early June. By mid-July, the pups are able to fly and begin hunting insects on their own. The females, however, continue to nurse their pups until they are able to adequately feed themselves. Bats do not damage or destroy property by gnawing or chewing, but their droppings may cause odor and respiratory problems. Correct identification of the animals causing a problem is always the first step in solving the problem. The best way to tell if you are housing a bat colony is to look for roosting bats or bat droppings in your attic. During the day, bats usually roost in narrow crevices in the attic walls and between the rafters. When you enter the attic, the bats will quickly retreat out of sight (rather than take flight). Because bats feed on insects, they are beneficial and shouldn't be needlessly destroyed. However, if bats are causing problems in a building, it is left to the homeowner's discretion to solve the problem. Toxic chemicals should never be used for bat control because they cause dead and dying bats to be scattered increasing the chance of contact between bats and people. Currently there are no toxicants registered for bat control. Naphthalene, also called mothballs or moth flakes, is registered as a bat repellent. This repellent may be useful when bats are in very confined areas such as crawlspaces or between walls, but is not very useful in large open areas such as attics. Also, bats will recolonize a building once the repellent wears off. The incidence of rabies in the wild bat population is low, and the spread of rabies within individual colonies appears to be very rare. Surveys of wild bats in the United States and Canada indicate that the incidence of rabies in clinically normal bats is less than 0.5 percent. However, of the sick, dead, or suspect bats submitted for testing to your nearest extension office, roughly 5 percent test positive for rabies. Bats of all sizes will bite in self-defense, but they almost never attack people. If you must handle a bat, take the following precautions to minimize the chance of being bitten.
* Wear leather gloves and scoop the grounded bat into a container to prevent the bat from biting you.
* If a bat bites you, immediately wash the bite with hot, soapy water and call a physician.
* If the bat is captured, it should be killed (without destroying the head), placed in a jar or plastic bag, and then refrigerated (not frozen).
Hiring a professional pest-control service maybe the technique you desire in handling a bat infestation, maybe not. Whichever method you chose do your homework bats are our friends.
TIP: With a bat box, you can take advantage of the bats' ability to control insects, while making a valuable contribution to the protection and management of these beneficial mammals.

Mark Dieter is a certified inspector in Maryland and Pennsylvania with Enviro-Tech Pest Services, which he is an owner and operator. mark@envirotechpestservices.com

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