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Bats in the attic are the worst kind of uninvited houseguests By Frank M. Watson

If you have bats in your belfry, or your attic, now is the time to remove them before they hibernate in your home for the winter.

University of Georgia county agents field about 2,000 calls on bat control each year. Some six species of bats can be found in Georgia, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Most of these love to roost in attics, hollow walls and other dark, out-of-the-way places. The smell of bat droppings, or guano, in an attic can be nauseating.

Disease carriers

Bats can carry bedbugs and other ectoparasites, those who live outside their host. There have also been cases of disease outbreaks when people were in constant contact with these pests. When tackling the task of cleaning up a bat-infested area, be aware of the potential danger.

So, how do you rid your home of bats? The only permanent way to be free from the bat roost nuisance is to shut the bats out.

First, homeowners need to find the openings where the bats enter. Look for cracks, louvers, knotholes or torn screens. Some bats can come in through a crack just wide enough to slide a pencil through, and most bats can enter through a hole the size of a quarter.

Search for holes

Look for openings with “dirty edges” where bats have been squeezing through. Check walls and the ground for bat droppings. (Bat droppings are similar to mouse droppings but are shiny with pointed ends.) Unlike mouse droppings, bat droppings often stick to surfaces.

Some people think lights and airflow, such as running a fan, will encourage bats to leave. UGA Extension wildlife specialist Michael Mengak says there is no literature to support this “urban legend.” He recommends using Dr. T’s Bat-a-way — a bird, squirrel, rabbit and bat repellent approved by the Georgia Department of Agriculture. Its active ingredient is naphthalene, which is also used in mothballs.

Occasionally, I’ve heard of people successfully using naphthalene moth crystals to get rid of bats. A word of caution - put the crystals in stockings so you can remove them if necessary. In one case, a family threw an abundant supply of mothballs in their attic and had to remove them because the family couldn’t tolerate the smell.

Plug holes

After the bats leave, seal all openings by stuffing stainless steel scouring pads in the cracks and applying caulk over them. Close the openings soon after it becomes dark when the bats are out for their evening meal.

Another way to remove bats is to use a one-way device. These devices are placed over the bats’ known entry points. These “bat valves” allow the bats to leave, but won’t let them come back in.

The best time to close bats out is late summer or early fall (beginning after Aug. 15). In early summer many young bats will remain in the attic. For this reason, there is a ban on bat closeout from May 1 to Aug. 15. The mothers return several times each night to feed them. If you block bats in, they will die and create another problem for you to address. If you wait for cold weather, the bats will hibernate in the attic all winter.

Most people complain when I give them this advice about how to deal with bats. They want 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. If you don’t want to tackle the bat problem yourself, call a pest control operator or critter-removal service.

For more information on bat removal, see the Georgia Department of Natural Resources – Wildlife Resources Division website at www.georgiawildlife.com.

(Frank Watson is the University of Georgia Extension agent in Wilkes County, Ga.)

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