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It's Too Bad Bats Have Such A Terrible Image. They Don't Deserve It

Updated on October 15, 2015
Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob has been in the pet supply business and writing about pets, livestock and wildlife in a career that spans three decades.

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Bats Can Keep Your Yard's Night Flying Insects In Check

Quick, what drinks your blood and gets tangled in your hair? I don't know either, but there's one crawling up your back. Batta boom. OK, let's get a little serious here. The answer is not bats. It is, however, whatever that thing crawling up your back is.

I don't know how many people still believe that bats get tangled in your hair, but they don't. And they don't drink your blood, either. Vampire bats do, but they're found in Central and South America, and they don't normally attack humans.

They might bite in self-defense if you try to handle them, but vampire bats feed on other wild animals and livestock. And they don't puncture the skin with razor sharp fangs and draw the blood like a hypodermic need.

They make a tiny laceration in the skin and lap the blood. They do it so gingerly that most animals aren't even aware of their activity...sort of like when a mosquito feeds on us.

Still gives you the creeps, huh? Like wolves and gorillas, bats were tardy about getting good PR people.

BATS ARE RIGHT UP THERE WITH VAMPIRES WHEN IT COMES TO CREEPING PEOPLE OUT
BATS ARE RIGHT UP THERE WITH VAMPIRES WHEN IT COMES TO CREEPING PEOPLE OUT | Source

Much of what most folks believed about those animals was formed from the image created for Hollywood thrillers and had nothing even remotely to do with the factual information collected by scientists.

Contrary to the popular saying, "Blind as a bat," bats are not blind. And a bat flying erratically is not automatically sick or rabid.

In these modern times, cable TV, with its specialty channels, has been especially helpful in getting accurate and interesting information out about animals we generally consider creepy.

As a result of our newly acquired enlightenment, our opinions, if not changed, have softened considerably.

But still, if we get a bat in our house it generally creates considerable turmoil.

Remember the good old days, when the local or county animal control officer (ACO) would come and safely remove the bat and return it to the wild?

That's no longer the case in most communities. Just as firemen rescuing treed cats is no longer the case. Municipal budgets just can't be stretched that far anymore.

Another reason local government employees no longer retrieve treed cats or remove wildlife from private property is the issue of liability.

So, you've basically got two choices: do it yourself or call a PAC (problem animal control) agent.

They've got the knowledge, skills, equipment, and license to deal with your problem. But that all comes at a price.

If you don't have room in your budget for the PAC solution and are up to doing it yourself, here's some helpful information.

The first bit of advice is to put away the broom or tennis racket. Quite often, all it takes is for you to close off the room containing the bat and open a window.

It shouldn't take too long for the bat to locate the egress. If that doesn't work, don a pair of thick leather gloves and remove it yourself.

For a bat clinging to curtains or draperies, carefully cover it with a jar, coffee can or box. Gently work the bat into the container, cover it, and carry it out to the yard for release.

If the bat is on the floor, cover it with a towel and gently gather it up, take it outside and let it go.

Sometimes you're able to cover it with a jar and work a piece of cardboard underneath. Carry your "bat in a bottle" outside and release it.

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Expect a shrill chatter or screech. The bat will very likely regard you and your actions as life-threatening and will vocalize its protestations. It might also fear-bite, so be sure you’re wearing thick gloves such as work gloves.

If anyone in the house has direct contact with the bat, or it's in a room with a sleeping person, capture the bat and hold it for your local health agent for help in assessing rabies risk or for submission to the Department of Public Health for rabies testing.

THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT BATS or THE "BETTER MOUSETRAP" PARADIGM

In a laboratory, being hand fed, a bat will eat up to 600 insects per hour. Imagine what a bunch of them, flying around your property from dusk to dawn, will do to the local insect population.

Insects, as a natural adaptation against predation, flit around in a rapid, zigzag pattern. This makes them harder to catch, as anyone who has ever run around the room with a rolled up newspaper can attest to.

But bats did the bugs one better. They developed "sonar" to enable them to home in on a victim like a heat-seeking missile.

In scientific parlance the term is echolocation, or bouncing high frequency sound waves off an object and determining its location by the sound waves reflected back. The dolphin is another mammal that uses echolocation.

On a quiet night, you can sometimes hear the high pitched squeaks of nearby by bats as they pursue a tasty morsel.

NATURAL INSECT CONTROL, WITHOUT THOSE NASTY CHEMICALS

Bats can do an effective job of controlling the nighttime flying insects in your little slice of paradise, and they work cheap, too.

So, in spite of their negative image, more and more people are mounting bat houses on their property. Widely available commercially, bat houses typically hold up to 3 dozen bats.

You can also make them yourself, out of rough pine. There are plenty of sites online that offer plans.

In a perfect world, you'd mount them 15 feet above the ground, in the eves of a barn, facing south, near water.

Obviously, not everyone is able to comply with those standards, but that's no reason not to hang bat houses in trees.

Just be sure you don't locate them near a basketball hoop or a swing set, for example. As day sleepers, bats will relocate if the area you chose for them is noisy.

For additional information about bats, log onto Bat Conservation International, Inc. Here’s the link:

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    • Bob Bamberg profile imageAUTHOR

      Bob Bamberg 

      5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Nadine, good to see you again. In a perfect world you would place your bat house 15 feet above ground, in the eves of a barn, facing south, near water.

      Absent that, anyplace except near a basketball hoop, swing set, or other place that may be noisy during the day. As day sleepers, they will relocate if they're disturbed during the day. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Regards, Bob

      Hello, Letitia, nice to meet you. You're right, they do a great job of mosquito control. In a lab, hand-fed, a bat will eat 600 mosquitoes in an hour, give or take a few. I can do that with M&Ms! Thanks for taking the time to stop and comment. Regards, Bob

    • LetitiaFT profile image

      LetitiaFT 

      5 years ago from Paris via California

      I'm with Nadene. I think bats are adorable too, and I love the fact that most species (excluding the vampire bats) delect in a far more dangerous and widespread winged blood-sucker of the night, the mosquito!

    • Nadene Seiters profile image

      Nadene Seiters 

      5 years ago from Elverson, PA

      I personally find them adorable! A friend of my mother's thinks they are the most frightening thing on the planet. I made her have her bats removed from her attic humanely. I have a little bat house that I have yet to put outside, I still cannot find a place I think would be suitable for them.

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