Bats in the Belfry?



Yes, they’re a bit creepy and have a sordid reputation but bats have been serving the planet for at least 50 million years and are vastly misunderstood.


Seventy percent of the world’s bats eat insects, including mosquitoes which are some of the deadliest insects on earth. A single bat can consume thousands of insects in one night. In the tropics, fruit and nectar feeding bats spread seeds during flight, playing a vital role in the survival, growth and re-growth of valuable plant life. Banana, avocado, date, fig, and mango trees are just a few that depend on bats for survival. Bat guano makes excellent organic fertilizer and is also a natural fungicide. Bats are not blind, they don’t attack people, and less than one percent of bats contract rabies which usually causes them to die within a few days. Bats are not flying rodents, they are in their own scientific order called Chiroptera, a word derived from Greek that means hand wing. They are the only mammal in the world capable of true flight.


Florida hosts 13 native bat species including threatened species like the Florida bonneted bat, and regardless of how people may feel about these remarkable critters, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission takes their survival quite seriously. According to FWC, April 15 marks the start of bat maternity season and is the last day to legally exclude bats from your home or building. Bat maternity season, the time when bats give birth and raise their young, runs through Aug. 14. During that time, it is illegal to block bats from their roosts. If bats are excluded during maternity season, flightless young can be trapped inside the structure and die.


YOU CAN’T EXTERMINATE BATS, YOU CAN ONLY EVICT THEM

Exclusion devices, which allow bats to safely exit a structure but block them from returning to roosts, are the only legal and most effective method to remove bats from your home or building. It is illegal in Florida to kill or harm bats, so exclusion guidelines were developed to ensure bats are excluded safely and effectively from buildings outside of maternity season.

Bat exclusion is a multi-step process that begins by identifying all potential bat entry and exit points in a building. To legally evict bats, exclusion devices should be installed on key exit points, left up for a minimum of four nights and the exclusion must be conducted when the overnight temperature is forecast to be 50ºF or above.


In other words, if you don’t take steps before April 15 to exclude bats from your building or home, you’ll need to be willing to have “bats in your belfry” until the middle of August!


Fun Fact: The term “bats in the belfry” refers to crazy or eccentric behavior but of course, a belfry refers most commonly to the bell tower of a church, a superb roosting spot for bats. While the phrase sounds very British, one of the published citations came from Ohio newspaper, the Newark Daily Advocate in October of 1900:


“To his hundreds of friends and acquaintances in Newark, these purile [sic] and senseless attacks on Hon. John W. Cassingham are akin to the vaporings of the fellow with a large flock of bats in his belfry.”


Photo by FWC