Around the Island

Richard’s Almanac: Bats

I was sitting on a deck on the side of my house last week when I noticed some small spots on the deck’s surface. I thought they were the remains of dead bugs. Closer inspection surprised me and was the start of an adventure and a challenge that I was not prepared for.

Using a magnifying glass I noticed plastic-like particles present in these half-inch long substances. After some research I decided that they were bat droppings. The particles that appeared to be plastic were the undigested wings of the insects that the bats eat. I discovered from my reading that a single bat can eat as many as 5,000 mosquitoes a night!

And that’s why they are protected. Some people even set up “bat houses” on their property to encourage bat residents.

My daughter does that but I am not so inclined. I prefer to have the bats high up in trees in the woods. I like them doing their good deeds far from my house.

So where were the droppings or “guano” coming from? My investigation revealed that they were originating from way high up on the gable end of the house some 35 feet up from ground level. I also discovered that the two air conditioners in windows on that side of the house had guano on them as did the windowsills.

My research showed that this guano is very dangerous. Bats can carry rabies, Lyme disease, SARS and even COVID-19. Not the kind of stuff I want near where I live. After spraying the air conditioners, I enlisted the aid of my grandson and removed both air conditioners. They were placed on the ground and doused with bleach and vigorously hosed down with water, then left in the sun for a few days before being placed in the garage. I had to decide whether or not it was safe to use them again.

In the meantime I learned that bats do not like the odor of peppermint. From the attic I placed a diffuser by the gable-end window and loaded it up with peppermint oil. I did this for a few days but the droppings continued. The next bat-unfriendly process was to shine a light toward their roosting spots. I had decided that they were literally hanging out during the day between the siding and the fascia board — about a half inch space running some 35 feet.

I have a quartz work light on a tripod so I set it up and aimed it toward the house’s roofline. Very bright. The continued droppings indicated that they had not left. One evening at dusk I sat with binoculars outside and did see one bat leave for a night of feasting on those 5,000 insects.

I know that the bats were not in my house but there was something uncomfortable about having them so close.

It was suggested to me that I call the town’s animal control officer. I did and left a message explaining my problem.

I received a call later that day from Officer Jenny Zahler and was told that animal control can help with removal of bats from inside my house but not bats that live outside. I was however given some advice.

“All animals dislike noise and bats are no different,” Jenny said, adding that I should play a radio loudly as close as I could to where the bats were roosting.

So I blasted WLNG out the attic window for three days straight. I’d still find two or three droppings a day.

Time to call in a professional.

In years past I called Busy Bee pest control out of Southampton for bees and stink bugs. I had heard their ad on the radio and decided to give them a “buzz.” I figured they would also know about bats.

Their procedure began with spraying the roosting space with peppermint oil from a high pressure hose. After that was complete, they took a plastic matting material like the stuff on the back of a scrubbing sponge and cut it into strips. They then tucked the strips into the space that the bats liked all along the whole gable. They drove screws through the fascia board to keep it secure.

So when the bats decide to come home, they’ll find their entry blocked and look elsewhere to live.

I hope.