You wake up, yawn, shuffle down the hallway, eyes blinking blearily. Wait…what's that dark brown spot high up on the wall? It wasn't there yesterday. Pinching yourself to make sure you are awake, you look at the large spot again. It's sort of fuzzy, could it be spreading mould? No, it's not mould. Oh, dear, it's a bat. A Little Brown Bat, to be precise: Myotis lucifugus. If you're seeing it, you're in North America. What's it doing on your wall? Sleeping peacefully, apparently.
Which leaves you with a bit of a problem. Before we solve it for you, let's review a few facts about the Little Brown Bat.
The Little Brown Bat: Fact and Fiction
- The small furry object hanging upside down on your wall is not a vampire. It will not turn into Dracula and bite you on the neck.
- The Little Brown Bat will not, upon waking, immediately fly straight at the nearest long-haired human and get caught in said human's hair. This is merely an unpleasant urban legend created by (short-haired) boys to frighten their sisters.
- Bats are incredibly useful creatures. They eat moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies. Do you like moths, wasps, beetles, gnats, mosquitoes, midges and mayflies in your vicinity? We thought not. So you want to invite the bat, politely, to go outside and eat pests, not stay inside and be one.
- During the day, the Little Brown Bat is relatively inactive. While he may move around in his tree roost outside, inside your house, he's likely to stay quiet as a mouse. After all, he can sleep up to 19 1/2 hours a day. So you have time to study him, and take a photo, if you don't get all up in his face with your flash.
- Although he's a pretty tame fellow, it isn't a good idea to touch the bat. Although bat rabies is extremely rare in the UK, it isn't in North America, so your US or Canadian bat (check its passport) has a 5% chance of carrying something you don't want. He's probably okay, but you should avoid contact and keep this simple.
- Bats navigate really well at night using echolocation. So you will be at a disadvantage if you wait until dark to try to get your houseguest to leave. Better act now.
How to Get a Bat to Leave
- Do not disturb the bat while you make your preparations.
- Find a broom and a dustpan. Close the cupboard quietly.
- Set the dustpan on the floor.
- Using the broom, gently knock the bat off its perch. It should fall, slightly stunned, onto the dustpan.
- Quickly clap the broom over the stunned bat.
- Picking up broom and dustpan, exit the house.
- Release bat. Watch it fly away without a word of thanks. Bats are not known for their conversational skills.
- Close door to prevent bat re-entry.
In the unlikely event that the bat wakes up and starts flying around the living room, then you've been too slow. Continue swatting gently in the direction of the bat. This will confuse its echolocation system somewhat. In that case, it's likely to fall down in bewilderment. At this point, do what you should have done in the first place and slip the dustpan under the bat, clap the broom over it, and run outside before the bat gets any more ideas.
This quick and easy advice will take care of the stray bat which has wandered into your domicile by mistake. Unfortunately, many North Americans find themselves in the unenviable position of harbouring colonies of bats in their attics. Besides inviting unwanted quips about belfries, the presence of bats in the attic is a nuisance. Major considerations are noise1, guano, and the aforementioned disease vector problem. A colony of bats should not be evicted with brooms.
The Humane Society of the United States offers some first-rate advice for reading Little Brown Bats the Riot Act in bulk. They strongly recommend you contact a professional. You should also keep in mind that nesting lady bats with young may not legally be evicted until the kids leave home. Once you are sure that you are officially allowed to stop being a bat landlord, the experts can help you install sneaky one-way doors to get rid of the bats who came to dinner. Bats check out, they don't check in.
Little Brown Bats like to roost in trees, but other bats require different types of shelter. Want to give a bat a good home? The National Wildlife Federation (US) has advice for building bat houses.
A last word on bat rescue: don't let your cat chase the bat. Cats mistake these creatures for flying mice, and may injure or kill them. Found an injured bat? Here's some excellent advice from the UK Bat Conservation Trust. That link also has helpful UK phone numbers. North Americans may find this page from Bat World Sanctuary helpful.
In the meantime, take a moment to appreciate the Little Brown Bat. He's a cute fellow, he's clever, and he keeps away those pesky mosquitoes. And no, he's not trying to nest in your hair.
Photo credits: 'Little Brown Bat Sleeping' by Dmitri Gheorgheni. 'Bat House' by Tavaron da Quirm.