Florida Bat Control Project

03.03.2005 - I took this photo working on an apartment complex that harbored a very large colony of Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats. The bats entered the apartments via very large gables, which had exposed fascia gaps. These gables were about 60' long, and three stories high. The bats were able to enter throughout the length of the gable, but most chose to enter and exit near the ends, where they had the most clearance. I used six exclusion nets on every gable. Most of the bats used the ends, where I took this shot from atop my ladder.

Oftentimes as I'm working in a more public setting, like an apartment complex, the people below my ladder look up and wonder just what the heck I'm doing with lights and nets and sealant and other tools in the middle of the night (well, dusk). When I tell them I'm removing bats, I either hear, "Oh God! Bats! AaaeeeAAA!!!" or "Thank God! You're getting rid of the bats! AllelujaAAA!!!" It's not that all folk are afraid of bats. Many share my opinion - that they're delightful little things. However, no one cares for the loud chirping or droppings they leave behind, and these bats were just raining down droppings on the sidewalks and stairs below, as well as chirping up a storm. Unsightly, unsoundly, unscently: abomination to the senses.

In this photo, we see bats exiting the building. They often emerge and take off in clusters. I had been confused about the manner in which bats exit buildings. I know in a case like this, and in many cases, that they kind of shuffle single-file to the exit. I would then suspect the bats to take off one-by-one. Sometimes they do, but more often than not, they'll fly out in clumps - four or five bats all at the same time. I never knew why this was, until one day I watched bats exiting a building, and a hawk of some sort, perhaps a Cooper's hawk, sat perched on the roof right above the exit. Each time as bats emerged, the hawk swooped down after them. Bats are very swift, with erratic flight, so the hawk was unable to catch a bat over many attempts. However, I knew it wouldn't be trying if it didn't expect a chance of success, and sure enough, on one of the attempts, *thwack* its talons smacked a bat in mid-air, and the hawk flew back onto the roof to eat it. It bothered me a bit to see a bat lose its life just to serve as a snack, but earlier that day I had eaten some Chicken McNuggets, so I guess I shant let the food chain whip at me.

Still, a bat lives a long time. It's one thing to eat a mouse, which can have like, 100 young a year. It's another to eat a bat. Regardless, I suddenly realized why bats exit in groups - it's simple schooling behavior - members of the herd or the school of fish know that there's safety in numbers, and when one exposes himself as a single target, chances of becoming dinner increase. So the bats exit in groups as a predator-avoidance technique. I've only once observed a predator lurking, but a survival trait is a survival trait. I've never read about this behavior before in any publication, and so perhaps this blog will serve as a time-stamped documentation that I discovered this bat-in-clusters-emergence-predation-avoidance-theory (BICEP-AT).

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Bats can be a big problem quickly when they are left alone. Bats not only grow their colonies, but they also harbor diseases that could be fatal if left untreated and allowed to continue. The state of Florida is home to bats and bats can be a problem in the area for many Floridians. Once they discover an entry way into the home, they can stay there and sleep, raise their family, and of course, defecate. The Florida bat control project is a good way for the community to get together to try and conquer their bat problems because it is hard to handle with just one or two people. Bats in Florida, such as the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat, can develop a colony rather quickly if the circumstances are right.

In this particular project, the bats entered a home within an apartment by following the gables in the roof which also left a gap in the fascia. The gables were sixty feet long and three stories high. The bats were able to come in and out near the ends where there was more room. The professional simply used nets to over all the gables because the bats were using the ends the most. With the Florida bat control project, the bats were so bad that they were pooping on the sidewalks as well as the stairs below their house. At night, the apartment tenants would have to listen to the high-pitched chirping that they could not make stop. Not to mention, because there were so many, the feces was collecting, and the smell was horrible.

With this removal project, the bats were able to exit the building and then would get caught in the netting and be able to go down and get out but they could never find their way back inside so they would fly off in hopes of finding a new place to live preferably before the sun came up.

This project was a group effort because there were so many people at the apartments and nearby that had to deal with the massive number of bats. In addition, the health of each tenant could have been jeopardized because of it.

Signs that you may have a colony living in your home

If you notice a high-pitched chirping at night, if you smell something foul almost all the time, or if you see bats flying around certain openings in a building, you may be looking at a colony of bats inside. If you do have bats, you don’t want to try and take them on yourself because it's not easy to do unless you are a professional. Once a professional successfully removes the bats from your location, you will want to hire a professional to come and clean up the area and disinfect it to ensure that everyone within the building is safe from the harmful spores that can be released within their feces.

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