Bats certainly have a bad rap – some of it deserved, most of it not. While they are a vector for many diseases throughout the word, they are not aggressive and have many benefits. In the U.S., the biggest health concern would probably be rabies. About 1 to 2 people a year in the U.S. die from rabies and it’s almost always from bat bites.
But let me clarify that last statement a little. Bats are not, as a population, overly rabid (some estimates say less than 1%). Most people who contract rabies from a bat are either not aware they were bitten (because of a bat’s tiny teeth) or unaware that bats can make them sick. For this reason, you should get a rabies shot if you wake up and find a bat in your room (especially if you were intoxicated), make contact with a flying bat or sustain a bite or a scratch while shooing a bat out of the house. But in all honesty, you’re not very likely to get sick from a bat.
Other negative aspects of bats are destruction of property and the buildup of stinky guano. For these two reasons in particular, removing bats from the home is a good idea. However, be friendly when doing so, because bats have a number benefits.
Beloved Bat Benefits
I’ll admit I was overly anxious when we found two bats in our house in the past few weeks. However, after a lot of research, I’ve come to realize their benefits far outweigh their negatives and they are really very amazing creatures. In capturing one I got what was my first up close experience with a bat and they are cuter than I would’ve thought. I now rather enjoy looking up when out on the patio and watching them swooping and flapping around, and their impact on the mosquito population this year is obvious. Despite wet, hot weather and bad bugs elsewhere around the area, we’ve been relatively free of bites.
According to Foster & Smith, some insectivorous bats can catch more than 600 mosquitoes an hour! Misquotes carry diseases as well (West Nile, Zika, Dengue, etc.) and in my lifetime, I’ve never discovered one benefit to the pesky insect, so let them be dinner!
But Not in My House, Bats
However, I don’t want bats living in my house and they are pretty close to doing so. Currently, we have a small colony in our chimney chase. While they aren’t making their way directly into the house, the two we have found have swooped in through the back door (I now believe) when we opened it to the call the dog around dusk. Recently, I took off the chimney access door and was nearly bowled over by the smell. Finally, one night around dusk we went out and watched and then confirmed we had a bat cave on the side of our house.
It was pretty cool watching them wake and head out for the hunt. But, the next morning I called a bat exclusionist. He will shore up the chimney and install a “bat door,” which will allow the bats to leave, but not return. This will be done after Aug. 1 when all of the pups can fly. The colony will go out one night and discover they must find a new roost. One-hundred to one odds they go BACK to the horse barn where they were for the past two years… which for now is fine. They do make bat houses and perhaps, if we ever redo the horse barn, I’ll build the bats their own house so they stay the hell out of mine!