Saturday, July 05, 2014

Bat Country

 I can't recall if I have ever mentioned my bat critters on the blog before but the whole deal has turned into a bit of a saga this summer.  Now, I love bats.  I think they are wonderful, beneficial creatures that have been wrongly maligned for centuries.  Can't say that I would want to snuggle with one but I would certainly never do one harm.  In fact, I want to help them if I can and I had hoped my place would be a refuge for bats and bees and any other creatures that are so helpful but hardly seen.
Well, a year or so after moving in down here I had noticed one bat living in the west end attic louver.  I have always had screen wire tacked to the inside of the vent so critters could not actually enter the attic but he (she?) seemed to like the louver part just fine.  Unfortunately, I had not tacked the wire down on the bottom such that the bat could not get on a flat area, which it did immediately and began, well,...pooping.  Apparently, bats like to lay flat as much as anything, rather than hanging upside down because this one was always laying flat out on it's stomach whenever I went up there.  Well, I didn't think much about it; it didn't seem to be doing any harm really, so I just let it be.
So then we fast forward to about the time Jack came to live here and started moving a bunch of his stuff up into the attic because I didn't have much storage space elsewhere.  Previous to this I rarely went up there, because I just didn't need to, and didn't think about the bat too much.  Well, after we were up there on and off I noticed there were now 3 bats living in the louver.  Hhmm.  I don't know if these were children grown up or other adults recruited or what but it seemed that the extras just kinda showed up rather suddenly and then one day there were 4!
I also began to notice about this time that there was a slight odor in the attic.  Okay, let's rephrase that.  There was a strong odor in the attic and a slight odor in the pantry, which is as you may remember the location of the attic access.   They were pooping so much on that flat part of the louver that the smell was becoming very unpleasant.  Bat guano may be a wonderful fertilizer but it is some hideous shit (literally) to be around.  Something must be done I told Jack.  Poor Jack.  He really gets the short end of the stick around here sometimes.  But once again, he bravely soldiered on and scraped up all the bat poop and tacked the wire down securely so they could not get on that flat part anymore.  They could now only get into the slanted boards and their poop would, theoretically, just roll out into the yard below.  We also dusted the flat board and inside of the attic well with baking soda to help absorb the smell, which I think it did eventually.
Bats, however, must have a very sensitive smeller though, because the next day this little guy (gal?) came to visit me.  Apparently they were rather unhappy with the baking soda remodel and spent the day outside.

I was walking down to my studio in the basement and noticed some quick movement near the door but I couldn't quite make out what I was seeing.  As I went to open the door I found myself face to face with this!  It would open one eye just enough to peer at me, daring me to squawk at it's presence.  I felt kinda bad but I had no idea that they would find baking soda that upsetting.  It wasn't even on the areas they rested on.  But, I was also delighted at the opportunity to observe this one so closely and it stayed there all day.  I mean, look at that hair!!  It's the Elvis of bats!  So of course Jack insisted we name him Baxter.  Ha!
We were also very careful not to disturb it, not to touch it and not to let any of the animals around it.
Now, there are several species of bats native to Alabama and naturally I concluded that this is one of the rarest and I am doing my part to help the struggling creatures.  Actually, I don't have a clue what type this is.  All the photos look the same to me.  But, rare or not, I want to help them and provide them a safe home.  I found THIS  interesting link on the benefits of having bats around.  The fact that just one Little Brown Bat can catch up to 600 mosquitoes in one hour is especially cool!

So, the bats eventually got over their distaste of the baking soda and a few days later we noticed Baxter and crew were back in their usual place.  Since they could no longer get on the flat board most of their poo actually seemed to be falling outside, the smell disappeared and we went about our business.  And they did also it seems.

Jack went up into the attic the other day about something and we now have TEN bats living in the louver.  Maybe it's the red paint, I don't know, but they love this thing.  Well, a friend of mine gave me an official, never-before used bat house in a attempt to lure them into finer accommodations.  We hung it on the same end of the house at a similar height and then placed 2 bags of moth balls right on the inside of the louver as they are really supposed to not like that odor.  Ya right.  They left for 2 days I think and now are right back.  I really don't mind them being there; the vast majority of the poo is going outside and there's no smell, so far.  I guess a large enough group of them could possibly block the flow of air out of the attic, and they seem bent on becoming as large a tribe as possible, but I don't know if that would actually happen.

So, for now I'm not really sure what to do.  Except enjoy the fact that there are not very many deer fly or mosquitoes around.  lol!


ErinFromIowa said...

Well. That is a conundrum. Flies and mosquitoes are the worst. So is bat poop it seems. Fortunately, I can say I have never smelled it. ;)

HermitJim said...

I can't help but wonder what attracted them in the first place. What do you reckon is it about that one spot that is so attractive?

Good luck with the bats!

Ed said...

I hiked down into a bat cave in the Philippines many years ago and it was some of the hardest exercise I ever got climbing over rocks smeared with bat guano. It was like trying to climb with butter smeared on your hands and feet.

Our former house used to get a bat or two visiting us in our finished basement. They would get into the garage and from there into the attic. Once in the attic they would get in the chase for the electrical wires that led to the basement breaker box and there get into our finished basement. It was always a surprise to go down there and be greeted by a furry black object flying quickly around the room!

Island Rider said...

Ugh. We battle bats at one of our historical sites. They get into the attic of a historic home no matter how much we work to shut up all the openings. And they really stink. The more you get, the more they stink and the more they poop and the more people complain. In Florida, they are protected during the summer and nesting season so when we get them, it is months before we can seal the building back up to keep them out. We have spent tons of money trying to get rid of them humanely. Bat houses are not the answer either. They go where they want to go. Literally. Good luck getting rid of them. I wouldn't let them get too happy. The make babies and you know what babies do.

edifice rex said...

Hey Erin! yeah, it's pretty bad. But i think we have a solution.

Hey Jim! Well, apparently, some species of bats love very hot areas for their sleeping, whereas others like caves and cooler places. I did not know this but it would explain why they like the hot air coming out of the attic.

Hey Ed! Yeck! I can't imagine getting it on me!!

Hey IR! Well, I don't want to hurt them and I don't really want them to go far away. I think a simple hard screen over the outside of the louver will keep them out. I didn't want to put up anything that would be seen but looks like I'll have to.

pamit said...

Totally jealous of your bat colony!! I had a bat house when I lived in VA but never got any occupants. Good on you for going to the trouble to make your house a good place for them and you to cohabit! You will be repaid by a healthier ecosystem around your land, for sure. --I have a trip planned in August down to the San Luis Valley in CO, to a hot springs that also has a nearby colony of Mexican free-tail bats. I think yours are probably little brown bats. Wow!