The patient gardener
Steve Borel

In Summer many of us try to confine our outside chores at home to early morning and late afternoon to avoid the worst of the heat. It is in those twilight hours that you will see bats flying around catching insects to eat.

Bats are a constant in our environment but we just see them more in the summer because we are spending more time outside during their activity periods. These small mammals are nocturnal, just as you see in the vampire movies. They are active at night but during the day they are looking for a dark quiet place to roost. In a lot of regions of the country their preferred hangout is in caves but in the absence of caves in our part of the world, they also like attics in homes and barns.

To literally have bats in the belfry is more than most of us can or should tolerate. So how do you get them to move?

When left undisturbed, bats have a very predictable routine. They sleep during the day and then about 30-40 minutes before dark they will come off of their roost to go out and feed on flying insects during the night. The next morning they will return to their roost right after the break of dawn.

You can use their routine to your advantage. First, you will need to determine where bats are entering your attic. If you will take a seat in a chair at one corner of your house where you can see two sides of the roof line at one time you will be able to cover 50% of the roof at one sitting. Take your watch an hour before dark. Just be patient and watch for bats coming out of the roof. Usually they have found an opening on a gable end or a crack in the fascia area.

If you do not see any bat activity, move to the other diagonal corner of the house the next afternoon and watch for exiting from the rest of the roof line.

Once you have determined the exit and entry point, use the daylight hours to go investigate and make a strategy to repair the opening. Do not implement your strategy yet as the bats are now back in the attic and you want to let them out. Your repair might be as simple as replacing a screen on a gable vent or plugging a crack around the fascia board. Also, your repair strategy does not need to be permanent immediately; it will just need to be good enough to prevent re-entry.

After you make the plan and get all of your supplies together wait for another afternoon and allow all the bats to leave the attic. They usually will all be gone in 15-20 minutes from the first departure. Now use a ladder and lights or whatever means you need to go and make a temporary repair that will exclude the bats. If you get up early the next morning you can watch as bats arrive to see if you were successful. Use daylight to complete the permanent repair.

It is important to note that bats may have more than one entry point. They will also be trying to find another way back in if you plug their hole. It will be wise to repeat you scouting process in about a week after you exclude bats to make sure they have not found another route. It can take a week or so for them to re-establish a routine after being disturbed.

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