Last night, as I sat working at my computer, I heard a noise that sounded like a cross between a cricket and a squirrel. It didn't register immediately, but then suddenly, alarm bells went off. I knew exactly what makes that noise -- a bat.
I peeked out my home office door. There on the floor, slightly trapped under the basement door, was a bat. It looked right at me, opened its mouth, and squealed. I squealed back and slammed the office door. Luckily, my husband's pretty handy with a coffee can, or I might have been stuck in the office all night.
The safest way to get a bat out of your home is to close off the room it's in and open the windows. Barring that, you can cover it with a coffee can or similar container and gently slide a magazine underneath, then take the animal outdoors.
After the break, I'll discuss how to keep them from getting in in the first place.
When we first moved into our house, bats were a problem. We have a large population of them in our yard, which we appreciate. But they kept getting into our basement and, occasionally, made their way upstairs. We finally discovered they were coming in through an unused incinerator chimney. We plugged it and were bat free -- until now.
Though last night's bat was a fluke -- one of the kids had left the back door wide open without us realizing it -- we've found two bats in the basement this spring. It's time to do some detective work.
Bat-proofing your house takes patience and diligence, but it is possible for homeowners to tackle the job on their own. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Bats can squeeze into a place that's only 1/4 inch wide. Carry a matchbook around the exterior of your home to find possible points of entry. If the matchbook can fit into crack, so can a bat.
- Stand outside your house at dusk and watch for bats leaving attic windows, chimneys, soffits, or cracks in the foundation.
- Look for bat droppings near your roof line, or on the sides of your house.
- Once you've found a point of entry, you can't just seal it off. That will bring your bats downstairs looking for a way out. Instead, create a one-way valve. You can either build a box or use a piece of netting. Bats can leave to hunt for food, but when they return, they won't be able to get back in. (You can also buy a kit commercially if you're unsure how to make one.)
- Note that in June and July, there may be baby bats inside that can't fly. Bat-proofing should be avoided during this time.
- After three or four days of using the valve, you can safely seal off the bats' doorway.
- Bats are less likely to roost in your home if they have a suitable outdoor environment. Consider adding bat houses to your property after you've evicted the bats from your home.
- Though some organizations recommend that you kill any bat that you catch, it's possible to rid your home of bats in a humane way. If you do a good job of bat-proofing, bats are not likely to return.
In general, bats are good neighbors. They eat an amazing amount of bugs every night and generally keep to themselves. But bats and humans don't mix inside a house, so it's best for all involved to tackle the problem before it gets out of hand.