Bat Man and Bat Woman

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Oh me, oh my. So much to learn about bats, and so little time to do it.

We’ve scoured the Internet for our bat education. We learned that, contrary to what we had always thought, not all bats migrate. Most bats in our area hibernate ‘in place’, which is why we saw no bats during the winter. When the weather cooled down, and days got shorter, we saw fewer bats. By November 1st, they will all be hibernating – presumably inside our insulation, according to the bat specialists that gave us a $12,000 estimate for bat remediation. We didn’t get the estimate until mid-September, and it took a couple of weeks to do our research, so we have only one month to do our own bat eradication, with just ourselves and a couple of friends.

But where do we start?

There are 3 different species of bats in our area. Most of the bats that chose to grace us with their presence are small Mexican brown bats. They can enter through cracks that are about the size of your little finger (depending on how big your fingers are); about 3/8 of an inch. You can see how small they are, compared to a quarter (these are already dead and dried out).

Bats just love log homes. Each intersection where ‘round meets flat’ (the trim on the logs, for instance) results in a small gap for a bat to get some rest. At the eaves, window trim, doors and roof peaks, they can not only find a niche, but also a ‘runway’ to scramble along the back of the trim. You can walk underneath, looking upward, and see little pairs of eyes looking down at you. Peer into the cracks along the window trim, and you can see a small body blocking the light.

They usually like to roost on the hottest side of the house, up high. It sometimes gets to be 108 degrees in the summer here. With our metal roof, it could probably get to at least 130 degrees. Just think about how hot it gets inside a closed car in the summer. Our wood deck reflects heat upwards at the end of the day, maintaining that heat level for our dear friends. The large amounts of small bat feces (they look like rat feces, actually) on the deck confirm that the south side has the largest congregation. But the bats initially made their home on the east side of the house, and we can see that they have also made the north side their home as well. We wonder why we saw no evidence of them on the west side, which gets the most heat during the afternoon until the sun settles. Perhaps even bats have a top-end of their tolerance for heat?

We inspected every part that we could see and reach. But, knowing they were behind the fascia, probably inside the covered eaves, and possibly in the insulation, we knew the hardest part was yet to come. After gathering our tallest ladders (including a ‘Little Giant’), we bravely removed the fascia. Good news! A rafter ran parallel to the fascia, and it was perfectly sealed. The bats couldn’t get into the insulation from this direction! Whew! We really weren’t sure what we would do if we had to remove all the insulation and then re-install it. However, we could also see that the bats had made themselves right at home in the soffit (enclosed eaves).

It turns out that it really isn’t all that difficult to do your own bat remediation.

The coolest part is the one-way bat doors. No kidding. Seal all openings except where you install the bat doors, and the bats can come out, but they can’t get back in. There are a number of different kinds. The kind we chose look like a smooth plastic ‘tube’ with a flange that fastens over the crack. Since we have a very long space where the bats could enter, we also installed 1/4-inch hardware cloth where the soffit meets the house.

Since the fascia boards had warped and pulled loose over the years, my husband, Rob, used a little persuasion in the form of K-clamps, then used large washers and screws to make sure they don’t pull loose again.

All in all, the hardest part was working on tall (20-foot) ladders. But with a little ingenuity, fortitude and some help from our friends, it cost us only $$ instead of $12,000.

One last note: Not all the bats leave every night, so it may take a week or two before they all leave. Ideally, before you begin, install a ‘bat house’, so they will have somewhere to go. If you want to build your own bat house, you can download The Bat House Builder’s Handbook.