There are 13 bat species native to Florida, and two of those are federally listed as endangered. Because of this, bats cannot be harmed during removal. However, all of the bats found in Florida are insectivores and help control the insect populations, including mosquitos, eating thousands of insects each night. Another misconception is that bats carry diseases, when in fact less than 1% of bats carry rabies.
Bat populations are declining, primarily due to habitat loss. Trees used as roosts are removed or lost to construction, and roosts are removed due to the misconception of bats spreading diseases. So if bats are good, but also not wanted in your attic, what can you do?
Safely Removing (Excluding) Bats from Buildings
Two things are important to know about bats:
(1) Bats cannot be tampered with, even by professionals, between April 15 and August 15th. This is the maternity season for bats and excluding adult bats from roosting areas can result in the death of their offspring.
(2) Bats aren’t really removed from buildings, but are actually excluded. Bats hunt at night, and will leave the roosting areas to eat and return before sunrise. To safely get rid of bats, exclusion devices are put up around the entrance hole, allowing the bats to leave but not reenter the building.
Exclusion devices can be bought or made (FWC tutorial video) that prevent the bats from returning to the unwanted areas. The devices must be left up for a minimum of 4 days, but more ideally 7 days. After the 7 day interval, do one last bat check and if they are all gone, repair the hole immediately. Because of the maternity season, it is important to check for bats before April 15th if you want to exclude them from an area.
There is also the option to employ wildlife trappers. Wildlife trappers for bat removal do not require a specific certification or endorsement, but some choose to register with FWC. That list can be found here, and you can also do a quick internet search to find trappers.
But what about the bugs?
If one bat eats thousands of insects a night, you might want them to stick around, right? So how can you help those bats relocate to a more ideal location on your property or near your home? Providing roosting and foraging habitats is essential to keep bats around (but outside of) your home. Don’t remove dead and dying trees, don’t disturb existing roosts, or buy or build your own bat house! Provide open water access for bats to drink out of and feed on aquatic insects and reduce insecticide use.
Photo Credit: UF/IFAS