How To: Get Rid of Bats—and Keep Them Away for Good
Though bats are key to keeping the insect population around your home in check, you definitely don’t want them living under your roof. Here’s what to do if you find bats in your home.
The good news: Bats are not aggressive. The bad news: If there are bats in your house, it’s only a matter of time before their waste begins to pose a serious problem.
Health concerns aside—and there are indeed viable health concerns—bat droppings and urine can destroy wood and other building materials, gradually compromising the structural integrity of your home. So, even if you are not skittish about the idea of bats dwelling under your roof, there are plenty of rational reasons to act fast. Follow the steps outlined below to get rid of bats and prevent them from returning.
STEP 1: Research local laws.
Familiarize yourself with local laws. Most states rank bats as a protected species, which means that it’s illegal to kill them. One humane approach is to install a decoy bat house, such as this cedarwood model available on Amazon, on your property before evicting your unwanted guests. Chances are that once barred entry to your home, the bats will take up residence in the new accommodations you’ve prepared.
From there, you can count on the bats to continue their beneficial service of eating the insects on your property. If you have a bat problem, take care of the problem immediately to prevent structural damage to the house. The steps below can help, or you can call a professional. If you’ve discovered your winged residents while prepping your home for a future sale, do the responsible thing and make sure to disclose the issue to the future owners.
STEP 2: Identify the type of bat that’s in your house.
When you’re trying to get rid of bats, it’s essential to figure out what type of bat you’re dealing with. So the first thing to do is learn the common types of bats in your neck of the woods. Next, try to get a good look at the bats, if you haven’t already, so you can compare your observations to your research. Vampire aficionados could easily guess that your best chances of seeing a bat are at dusk and dawn.
There are nearly 50 species of bats in the United States, but only colonizing varieties will make their homes in your attic or under the eaves of your house. The three most common colonizing species of bat are the little brown bat, the big brown bat, and the pallid bat. Big brown bats have shiny brown fur and dark brown-to-black wings, ears, feet, and faces.
True to its name, the little brown bat looks very similar to the big brown bat but is smaller and has a pointier nose. The distinctive-looking pallid bat has pale fur, large ears, a pink face, and eyes that are noticeably larger than those of other bats.
Once you know what kind of bats are in your house, you can move on to determining whether it’s maternity season for that particular species. Maternity season for U.S. bats varies by species and region, but typically falls between May 1 and August 31. If you prevent the mother bat from regaining entry to your house while the babies are still inside, those babies are going to die. And no matter how you feel about that, you’re definitely not going to like how it smells. So if it’s maternity season, wait it out.
STEP 3: Determine the bats’ point of entry.
Sure that maternity season is over or has not begun? OK—time to get serious. Watch your home closely at dusk or dawn, with the aim of pinpointing exactly where the bats are entering and exiting your home. Bear in mind that a bat colony usually has more than one access point, and these openings can be as small as a half-inch.
Chimneys and vents are the most common openings that bats use to enter the home, either choosing them as a place to nest or as a means of accessing other parts of the house. Other common entry points to check include the ridge cap of the roof, louvers on the side of the home that vent the attic, and the fascia boards on the eaves of a home.
Damaged parts of a home’s exterior, such as warped boards, loose sections of siding, or broken window panes are also places where bats gain entry. Look for the telltale sign of bat droppings around these openings to help you confirm where the bats are breaching your home’s barrier.
STEP 4: Seal the opening.
If bats have already taken up residence, simply sealing up their point of entry might not be a good idea if it traps them in the home. One way to get rid of bats is to use a device called a one-way exit valve or one-way tube, which allows the bats to exit the building but provides no way for the bats to return. If your chosen device seems to be working, leave it in place for about 3 days to give all your bat residents time to exit.
Once you’ve successfully removed the bats from your home, it’s time to prevent them from returning. To fill up holes and seal cracks, begin by covering the most common entry point. Install caps on chimneys, cover vents, and add screens to windows. Repair any holes in roofing or siding that could let bats enter.
Remember, since bats can squeeze through holes as small as a ½ inch to 1 inch, you’ll need to be diligent with your repairs. Use caulking compound, such as DAP Elastopatch (available at Amazon), or an expanding foam such as Great Stuff (also available at Amazon), to fill cracks or holes. Unlike rats, bats will not chew through material, so either of these products should do the trick.
STEP 5: Clean, clean, clean.
After you get rid of bats, you have a messy job on your hands. The bats will have left droppings and urine in their wake. When cleaning, it’s imperative that you wear the proper protective gear—full-sleeve clothing, rubber work gloves, and an N95 respirator (a dust mask will not provide the necessary protection).
Before diving into the mess, first lightly mist the area with a solution of water and bleach to kill any pathogens that might be in the air. Remove and dispose of porous materials such as rugs or fabric that might be contaminated by bat droppings.
Use a non-ammonia soap or detergent to clean, making sure to thoroughly scrub the area. Rinse with clean water, and then disinfect with a solution of ¼ cup of bleach for every gallon of water. The bleach will kill any remaining pathogens while eliminating odors.
Like other home hazards, bats can cause serious health concerns. The droppings may contain a fungus that can cause a potentially life-threatening respiratory disease called histoplasmosis, so think seriously about hiring a professional cleanup crew. Once the area is no longer toxic, proceed to seal all the holes you identified.
FAQs About Getting Rid of Bats
Q. Does one bat in the house mean more?
If you find one bat in your house, the odds are high that there are more. Bats are very small, so it’s possible that multiple bats can be living in your home without you even knowing it. After finding a bat, proceed with the steps above to determine how they are entering your home.
Q. How do you get rid of bats in the attic?
If you live in a region where temperatures drop below freezing in the winter, the bats will leave when the cold arrives. Once they migrate out, seal up any cracks or holes and cover vents to keep them from returning. In warmer climates, use exclusion tubes or doors to get them out, and then proceed to seal any openings.
Q. What are bats attracted to?
If bats are attracted to your home, it’s likely because it either presents a food source (indicating you might need pest control) or an ideal spot for nesting if the bat is looking for a place to expand its brood.
Q. How do you scare off fruit bats?
There are a couple of solutions for getting rid of bats feasting on your fruit trees. Scare them off by hanging objects that are visible and make noise, such as wind chimes or windsocks. You also might be able to scare bats with sound from ultrasonic devices.
Q. What will repel bats?
While physical barriers will keep bats from entering your home, some items repel them. Bats don’t like the smell of mothballs, white phenol, cinnamon, or eucalyptus. Install bright lights to help deter them. Bats also don’t like objects that reflect light, so you can hang strips of aluminum foil, mirrors, mylar balloons, or even old CDs.
Discovering that a bat family has taken up residence in the attic is enough to give anyone the heebie-jeebies. Fortunately, evicting these winged squatters is as simple as repairing holes on the exterior of your home and closing off vents, chimneys, and other openings.
When getting rid of bats, keep in mind that bats are protected in most states due to the contributions they make to the environment, so it’s important that you treat them humanely. While sending your bat residents packing is aboveboard, poisoning bats or trapping them and leaving them to starve is a definite no-no. Besides, you’ll want them around to help ensure you have a bug-free backyard.