Our Sarasota - Bradenton clients ask us "aren't they just flying rats?" or they often assume they are some type of bird. The truth is, bats are mammals. There are more than 1,200 species of bats and they make up about one-fifth of all mammal species. They range from the world's smallest mammal, the tiny bumblebee bat that weighs less than a penny, to giant flying foxes with six-foot wingspans. You will not find any vampire bats in Florida or the United States for that matter. Only three species of bats are actually vampires and they are all only found in Latin America. They really do feed on blood although they lap it like kittens rather than sucking it up as commonly thought with vampires.
Bats are a benefit to Florida residents by providing free pest control. Bats prey on large amounts of annoying night-flying insects such as mosquitoes and gnats. More than two-thirds of bat species hunt insects and they have an enormous appetite. A single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour. A pregnant or nursing female bat typically eats her entire body weight in insects each night. They also eat other insects that feed on commercial plants. Bats help to pollinate the ecosystem. A few of the commercial products that depend on bat pollinators for wild or cultivated varieties include: bananas, avocados, dates, figs, peaches, durian, cloves, cashews, carob and balsa wood.
Although bats can have advantages, they can be a danger to humans either from a bite or with their droppings. Bats can fit in holes or gaps less than one inch. The bat's ability to squeeze in extremely small areas requires the exclusion and removal process from a home to have an extremely high attention to detail. Compounding this difficulty is that bats are a protected species. Bats cannot be handled. Picking bats up and removing them is only permitted if they are inside a structure that is inhabited by humans. If the removal process is not done properly, it may result in death for the bats.
Bats have a "season" in which they cannot be handled. April 15th - August 15th is considered bat maternity season and bats may not be disturbed. Many people ignore them simply hoping they will go away but bats will continue to multiply and add to the obnoxious smell, high pitched squeaking noises, damage to your home and increased health risks.
Bats are particularly fond of making their home in the gable roof vents, chimney caps, soffit areas, behind vinyl siding, and under barrel tile roofs. The quicker the problem is dealt with, the less damage, cleanup, and removal costs are incurred. Bat guano is very acidic and damaging. Bat urine and guano will accumulate over time resulting in liquefied guano dripping off roofs, eating away at roofing underlayment, staining concrete, paint, roof tiles, pool surfaces, and more. If an attic is infested with bats, the guano may begin dripping through ceilings, ruin insulation, sheetrock, ceiling tiles, and in severe cases will cause the interior of the ceiling to collapse. Bat guano has an awful and unique smell making it easy to identify. You will probably never forget it once you know it. The smell of guano often gives many people an instant headache.
Although the risk is small, the first major risk is rabies. If you suspect you have been bitten, get medical attention right away. If you are sleeping, and awake to find a bat on your skin (yes it happens) do not risk it. Have it looked at by a medical professional immediately as bites are not often felt. Bat guano carries the spores for Histoplasmosis, a disease mainly affecting the lungs of humans. The risk is much greater for those with immunity disorders, the elderly, and the very young. Bats also carry bat mites. They are often mistaken for bed bugs. Many other exterminators mistake these for bed bugs and will treat a building as such only to be called back over and over again as the presence of bats will allow new ones to take their place.