The weather’s getting warmer, and maybe you’ve gone up into your attic to get something when you realize something isn’t quite right. Do you see piles of droppings, or hear fluttering and high-pitched squeaks? You have bats!
The shelter of your attic attracts bats as a place to rest and raise their young, especially during the summer. Though repellents might chase them off, the best way to keep bats out for good is by providing alternative housing, waiting for the right time to move them out, and sealing up openings.
It’s easy to look for quick fixes when it comes to dealing with your bat problem, but if you want a solution that works (and one that’s responsible too), don’t wing it on your own! Read on to learn the five steps you should take to win the bat-tle for your attic!
Step 1: Make Sure You Really Have Bats!
First, you’ll want to be sure the culprits in your attic are actually bats, not other pests like rodents. (Bats aren’t rodents, FYI.) Rats and mice can leave droppings and make sounds in your attic too, but the solutions for getting rid of your bats won’t discourage other kinds of animals from using your attic.
Look for evidence of gnawed wood, fabrics, boxes, or wires. Unlike rodents, bats won’t chew on things, so if you see this kind of damage, you’re dealing with something else besides bats.
Droppings around your attic provide another clue. Bats leave droppings in piles below where they roost and near exits to the outside, not scattered like rodents.
If you see droppings and stains on vertical surfaces like walls, it’s most likely from a bat. Also, bat droppings crumble when crushed; rodent droppings tend to flatten.
Make sure you wear a protective face mask, N-95 or better, when examining dusty, poorly ventilated areas where bats or rodents may be living.
Bat waste can be corrosive and cause damage to your home!
If you can’t locate them inside your attic during the day, look for them at dusk. Go outside and watch your attic for signs of bats leaving to hunt. This will help you locate their entry/exit openings, too. (Which you’ll need to know for later!)
As the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife notes, common openings into your attic are where masonry touches the building (like chimneys), at corners and other joints, along eaves where the roof and wall meet, and through vents or gaps in windows.
Why Are Bats Attracted To My Attic In The First Place?
Your bats could have a hard time finding habitat elsewhere. Perhaps you live in an area with standing water, bright lights, or other things that attract a lot of nighttime insects. And where there are insects, there are bats to eat them.
Your attic is the perfect roost for a bat or two… or twenty! It’s predator-free, dry, and insulated from wide swings in temperature, much like the natural caves and cavities bats prefer to use.
Once a bat discovers your attic, it will continue to return year after year, remembering it as a safe place to rest during the day and raise its young in the summer. Bats can live for decades, so you want to roll up the welcome mat as soon as you can!
It also helps to know just how the bats got in your house!
Step 2: Put Forth A Good Effort To Avoid Exterminating The Bats
You might want to treat your unwanted bats the same as you would other pests like rats and mice, but hold on before you think you can trap them and be done. Your goal should be to encourage your attic buddies to move on, not to hurt them.
Although bats have gotten a bad reputation, they play an important role in the natural world around us. Some keep harmful insect populations in check, others pollinate plants, while others spread seeds that help regrow wildland areas.
One study from Indiana State University found that a bat eats about 600 mosquito-sized insects per hour. They don’t just go after mosquitos, but also cucumber beetles, stink bugs, June bugs, and leafhoppers, among other destructive insects. If you have bats in your neighborhood, your garden will thank you!
According to information shared by Canada’s Environmental and Natural Resources, bat populations are in serious decline because of habitat loss and other risks, in some areas dropping over 90% in the past 20 years.
Every bat is important for the future of their species. Therefore, many bats are protected under the law, so harming them could result in penalties.
Can’t I Just Trap The Bats?
You might be tempted to get your unwanted guests out as soon as possible, but you should never try to trap or handle bats. A bat can be easily injured when you try to handle it, and a bat in a trap can hurt itself by attempting to escape.
If you find a lost bat flying around your kitchen or living room, your best bet is to open doors and windows and then try to shoo it out to freedom.
Although, the bats in your attic probably aren’t lost. They’re right at home. They’ll come back to roost even if you get them out.
This is especially true during certain months. Most people first notice their attic bats in the summer (May through August), the time when mothers are raising their young.
If you accidentally separate mother bats from their pups, they will try everything they can to get back inside. Unfortunately, this means that when your bat problems are at their worst is also the worst time to get rid of them!
Never handle a bat. If you find yourself in a situation where you need a bat physically removed, visit Bat World Sanctuary’s website to find a bat expert nearby, volunteers specially trained in bat rescue, who can come help you out. You can also use our partner network of pest professionals to find someone near you to remove the bat as well!
If you have touched a bat or suspect exposure, contact your local Department of Health immediately for more information on what you might need to do next.
So How Do I Chase Out Bats For Good?
The important thing to remember when keeping bats out of your attic is that quick solutions won’t last. You should also avoid anything that harms the bats. Not only is this illegal in many juristictions, but it won’t address the reasons why they’re coming into your attic in the first place.
To keep bats out of your attic once and for all, you’ll have to take a long-term approach to the problem.
Step 3: Provide A Bat House To Attract Bats
One study found that one of the best ways to keep bats out of buildings is by providing attractive alternative housing, a place that bats will love much more than your attic. For example, just look at the reviews of this Kibaga Bat House to read stories about how bats moved from attics to well-placed bat houses instead.
To make their new home extra-appealing, mount your bat house 10 to 20 feet off the ground in a place that gets about 6-8 hours of direct sunlight (morning sun is best.)
Try to keep your bat house at least 20 feet away from trees and other obstacles so your bats will have a clear space to take flight. Don’t mount your bat house on a pole unless you’re mounting two back-to-back, otherwise, the box will get too hot during the day and too cold at night for bats to enjoy.
If you’re worried about bats going near your trees once they’ve perched up in their new bat house, you can take a few tips from our guide on keeping bats away from your trees here.
You’ll want to help your bats find their new home by placing the bat house close to your attic. It might take them a few months to a year to move in, so give them plenty of time.
If you’re planning to try another prevention method like exclusion, mount a bat house first to give them a better chance of survival when your attic is no longer an option.
If you’d like to learn more about why bats are on your property, I highly encourage you to take a look at our piece on what attracts bats to your yard in the first place!
Step 4: Close Up Any Possible bat Entry Points
Whether you’re able to provide alternative outside housing for your bats or not, you’ll want to seal up all of their entry points with physical barriers. This is called “exclusion” or “bat-proofing.”
Bat-proofing the openings in your attic will keep bats from moving back in once you’ve gotten them out.
Timing is important. To avoid separating mothers from their pups, seal your attic in early spring before the bats move in or in late fall after they’ve left for the winter.
Even though you might be eager to get them out, avoid closing their entry points during the summer maternity months. If you accidentally trap bat pups inside your attic, not only will the bats have an awful end, but you’ll be dealing with some nasty odor problems too!
Summer’s over, but you’re not sure if all your bats are grown and gone? You can use one-way “bat valves” like the Batcone II Reusable Bat Exclusion to make sure they can get outside but can’t get back in.
Another technique is to use plastic sheeting, bird netting, or window screen to create your own one-way valve.
Hang the material over openings, making sure it extends one foot on either side and below the hole. Attach it to the building along the top, but leave the bottom open.
Bats will easily exit by dropping past the material, but won’t be able to find their way back in when they return. Make sure you leave the material in place for a week to give all the bats a chance to leave.
Remember–never install a one-way device during the summer months. You don’t want to separate mother bats from their pups.
When you seal up your attic, start by closing all but one or two of the main openings, ones that you know the bats can use to get outside.
Give them a week to make sure they’ve learned where the remaining openings are. (They’ll keep searching until they find them.) Then wait until after dark when they’ve left for their nightly feeding and close up the last entrances.
But be careful – bats don’t go out food searching every night, especially if the weather is cool and rainy. Use a one-way technique like above to be sure.
To seal your attic, you can use hardware cloth, steel wool, copper mesh, or anything you would use to keep out rodents. Install spark arrestors (metal mesh) over chimneys and vents. These will also help wildfire-proof your home!
Unlike mice and rats, bats are less likely to get through lighter materials like screens, tar paper, caulk, weatherstripping, and expanding foam, so you might also try using these. However, other animals can create openings for the bats to find, and it doesn’t take much!
If bats have taken a liking to your attic, they will search and search for even the smallest opening to let them come back in. According to this guide by Utah State, a bat can squeeze through an opening 1/4-inch wide… that’s smaller than a dried pea!
If you physically cannot search your attic for entry points, or even if you’re just daunted by the idea, try contacting a specialist for advice using our pest control locator page.
Responsible pest control services will encourage exclusion (bat-proofing) as your go-to solution too and may have people they know in your area who can help you seal your attic.
Using a bat house to attract your bats away (Step 1) can help you move them out of your attic even if you can’t locate every last hole. With an alternative place to roost, your bats won’t search so hard for a way inside!
The Quick Fixes (That Don’t Last!)
Maybe you’re looking for something fast and easy, and the idea of closing up smaller-than-pea-sized holes is not exactly winning you over.
You might find several other ideas online that look tempting, but as noted by many sources like this guide from the University of Nebraska, none of these have been proven to be very effective.
These solutions might temporarily deter bats if you need them gone quickly, but might not last in the long term.
Here are some of them (and the reasons you might want to avoid them!)
If you can point a bright light at the places bats are entering your attic, whether the light is on the inside or outside, bats might be discouraged from going through them. Although this has been shown to have some effectiveness, it can also backfire by attracting more flying insects around your house… and more bats!
A bright light pointed at where they like to roost inside might also make them uncomfortable. You might rack up a pretty steep electricity bill running a light 24/7… and they can just move to another spot in the attic!
High-frequency sound devices may also deter your unwanted guests but sometimes have been shown to attract bats to an area. Their sound waves also have trouble penetrating through beams and other obstacles your attic might have and can sometimes bother pets.
These might be worth a try, but they can be a bit pricey.
Other more natural odors might discourage your bats for a while. You can try packets and sprays containing mint and other potent scents (just make sure you never spray a bat directly!)
If you’d like to learn more about that option – take a peak at our guide on the scents that bats hate here!
At worst, you’ll make your attic smell nicer, but to keep the smell strong enough to keep out bats. Heck, you might end up keeping yourself out of your house too!
Step 5: Celebrate… The Bats Have Moved! (Hopefully)
Once you’ve successfully evicted your flying friends, make sure you take the proper steps to clean up the mess they’ve left behind.
Wear a face mask with a high filtration rating, like an N-95, and protective gloves that can be washed or disposed of after you’re done cleaning.
Spray down the area you’re working in with a light mist of water to reduce the amount of particulate matter that gets into the air while you’re moving around. If you can open a window or vent to the outside, use it to get fresh air flowing through your attic… just make sure you close it tight again when you’re done!
After you’ve swept up the droppings, spray contaminated walls and surfaces with a diluted bleach solution (10% bleach, 90% water) to disinfect the area. Follow your specific products specifications if available.
If you find any non-responsive bats, always use gloves to handle them, never your bare hands. If a bat has any bands or other tracking devices, that means it’s part of a scientific study.
Contact your nearest Fish and Wildlife Service field office to learn what to do next. If not, place the dead bat in two layers of plastic bags and dispose of it in your garbage.
Now your attic is clean and bat free!
That’s A Wrap!
Hopefully, now you’re ready to step up to bat and hit a home run… one that sends your bats to a new home!
Let’s do a quick recap on what you should know to keep bats out of your attic for good:
- Step 1: Make sure you’re actually dealing with bats, not another kind of animal.
- Step 2: Avoid harming and handling bats, both for your good and theirs.
- Step 3: Mount a bat house in a suitable location before trying to evict your bats, the earlier the better!
- Step 4: Begin sealing the openings to your attic using one-way techniques and appropriate materials, allowing time for all your bats to leave. Remember NOT to seal openings between May to August or you might block mothers from returning to their young.
- Step 5: Make sure you clean up your attic when the bats have gone.
Bats are helpful animals to have around your house… just not in your attic! It will take time and persistence to encourage them to roost elsewhere. So just hang in there and keep up a great battitude!
Thank you so much for reading and supporting Pest Pointers!
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Rains, G.C., Olson, D.M., Lewis, W.J., Tumlinson III, J.H. 2002. Systems management. In: Pimental, D., editor. Encyclopedia of Pest Management. New York, NY: Marcel Dekker, Inc. p. 826-828.
Whitaker, J. O. (1995). Food of the Big Brown Bat Eptesicus fuscus from Maternity Colonies in Indiana and Illinois. The American Midland Naturalist, 134(2), 346–360.
Zainol, N. Z., Ibrahim, F. A., Noor, S. M., Azizan, M. A., & Ahmad, M. M. (2018, September). The Effectiveness of Non-Destructive Bat Control Measures in Residential Building. In IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering (Vol. 429, No. 1, p. 012020). IOP Publishing.