Not all of us know the feeling, but those who do will understand; you are standing in your lawn late one afternoon, perhaps watching a beautiful sunset over the horizon, when you hear a strange 'chirping' sound coming from the direction of your home. You turn around to see tiny bird-like things coming from the overhangs and attic vents of your home and you immediately realize - your home is also a home to bats.
Bats conjure up all kinds of imagery. Dracula, Halloween, justice-seeking superheroes in black bat suits with extremely cool cars, haunted houses, vampires, and of course more realistic health scares such as rabies. While it is true that many species of bats carry inherent dangers to health and property, most will avoid contact with people if possible and are of little immediate danger. To begin, let's examine the types of bats that can commonly be found in the attics of homeowners across the Carolinas.
BAT SPECIES COMMON TO THE CAROLINAS
Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus): Big brown bats are widespread in North America and are known to roost in buildings, including attics. They are medium-sized bats with brown fur and are often encountered in urban areas.
Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifugus): The little brown bat is another common species in the Carolinas. They are smaller than big brown bats and have a similar preference for roosting in attics and other structures.
Eastern Red Bat (Lasiurus borealis): Eastern red bats are easily recognizable due to their reddish fur. They often roost in trees but may occasionally find their way into attics, especially during migration.
Brazilian (Mexican) Free-tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis): These bats are known for their long tails that extend beyond the tail membrane. They often form large colonies in attics and other buildings.
Hoary Bat (Lasiurus cinereus): Hoary bats are solitary and are usually found roosting in trees. However, they can occasionally be found in attics.
It is important to know that these bats are generally more active during the warmer months, and they may seek shelter in attics as a place to roost and raise their young. Bats play a valuable role in controlling insect populations, but if they become a nuisance or pose a health risk due to their droppings (guano) or potential for carrying diseases like rabies, it's important to contact a Nelon-Cole wildlife control technician for proper removal and exclusion methods, especially because some bat species are protected by laws and regulations. Our pest control experts can provide safe and legal bat removal procedures.
POSSIBLE DAMAGE TO YOUR HOME
While bats are valuable for ecosystem health due to their role in insect control, their presence in residential structures can lead to several issues:
Structural Damage: Bats may cause structural damage by their presence alone. They can leave behind guano (bat droppings), which can accumulate over time and create a mess. Bat guano contains uric acid, which can corrode wood, insulation, and other building materials. This can weaken the structural integrity of your attic or ceiling, leading to potentially costly repairs.
Odor: Bat guano has a strong and unpleasant odor. As it accumulates in your attic, the smell can become noticeable throughout your home.
Health Risks: Bat guano can harbor fungi, including Histoplasma capsulatum, which can cause respiratory diseases in humans when the spores become airborne. Additionally, bats can carry diseases like rabies, although transmission to humans is rare.
Noise: Bats are nocturnal creatures and can be noisy during their activity periods, which are typically at night. The sounds of bats moving around in your attic can be disturbing and disrupt your sleep.
Stains: Bats can leave behind stains on walls and ceilings due to their urine and feces, which can be difficult to remove.
Fire Hazard: In some cases, bats have been known to chew through electrical wiring in attics, potentially creating a fire hazard.
To address these issues, it's important to take appropriate steps for bat removal and attic clean-up. (as mentioned above, this is best left to a wildlife control professional at Nelon-Cole, as there are laws that protect many species of bats in our region). Once the bats are gone, you should also consider cleaning and disinfecting the affected areas and taking measures to prevent their return by sealing potential entry points into your attic.
To be sure, bats in and around your home can certainly post health risks to homeowners in the Carolinas, though these risks are more indirect in nature than direct. Some of these risks include
Histoplasmosis: This is a fungal disease caused by the inhalation of spores (conidia) of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, which can be found in bat guano (droppings). When disturbed, these spores can become airborne. Histoplasmosis primarily affects the respiratory system and can cause flu-like symptoms, pneumonia, and even severe respiratory distress in individuals with compromised immune systems.
Rabies: One of the more common scares from those encountering them, bats are known carriers of the rabies virus. While the risk of contracting rabies from a bat bite or scratch is relatively low, it is still a serious concern. Any physical contact with a bat, especially if it appears sick or behaves strangely, should be treated as a potential exposure to rabies. Prompt medical attention, including post-exposure rabies vaccinations, is crucial in such cases.
Guano-Related Allergies: Bat guano can contain allergens that may trigger allergic reactions in some individuals. These reactions can range from mild respiratory irritation to more severe allergies.
Ectoparasites: Bats can host ectoparasites like bat bugs and bat mites, which can sometimes bite humans when their bat hosts are no longer available. While these bites are generally not as serious as those from other parasites like fleas, they can cause itching and discomfort.
Zoonotic Diseases: Bats can carry other zoonotic diseases (diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans), although transmission is relatively rare. These diseases may include coronaviruses, although it's important to note that the risk of contracting COVID-19 from bats is minimal.
To mitigate these health risks associated with bats in your home, it is crucial to take appropriate steps:
Avoid Direct Contact: Never handle bats with your bare hands, and avoid physical contact with them. If you find bats in your living space, contact your wildlife professional at Nelon-Cole to safely remove them.
Bat-Proof Your Home: Seal off entry points to prevent bats from entering your home. However, it's essential to do this in compliance with local laws and regulations, as many bat species are protected.
Cleanup and Disinfection: If you have had bats in your home, it's advisable to have your attic or affected areas cleaned and disinfected by professionals, particularly if there is significant guano accumulation.
Vaccination: Ensure that your pets, especially cats and dogs, are up to date on their rabies vaccinations to protect them from potential exposure to rabid bats.
Seek Medical Attention: If you are bitten or scratched by a bat, seek immediate medical attention, even if you don't observe any symptoms. Post-exposure rabies vaccinations may be necessary.
Consulting with local health authorities, wildlife professionals, or our pest control experts can provide you with guidance on managing bat-related health risks effectively and safely.
While finding bats in your attic can be a startling and initially scary experience, it is important not to be overly alarmed and to simply contact Nelon-Cole for a consultation on what you are seeing. We will ask questions that will help us determine the course of action that should be taken in protecting your home, family, and pets. A consultation call to us is always free, and there is no-obligation or commitment implied - we simply want to help you make the most informed decisions you can upon finding a bat infestation. Call 1-888-7-TheWeb or fill out our form on the homepage for a fast, no-obligation response.