Thursday, 15 July 2010

Bits on Bats 6: It's enough to drive you bats

Bats in Houses by AM Hutson: Vincent Wildlife Trust 1990

Pipistrelles and humans have two things in common.  They are both mammals and they both show a marked inclination to live in modern houses.  But hang on, I hear you cry, bats live in belfries don't they? Well I could pen the longest blog post on record if I set about dealing with all the common bat myths that still abound so instead I'll move on.

I met a couple yesterday who live in a 60's flat roofed two storey house which they share with 300 pipistrelles.  That alone is not that unusual. In most similar scenarios the humans take the inside of the house and the pips the outside.  This is a convenient arrangement because never the twain shall meet apart from brief encounters at dusk if the human occupants venture outside at the point of  bat emergence.  In fact it is perfectly possible to live your life blissfully unaware of your squatters. (If you don't believe me see Bits on Bats 1).  Being crevice seekers, pipistrelle bats usually roost within the outer structure of buildings. There's not a lot of meat on a pip so large numbers can pack into small spaces eg tucked under roof tiles, under flashing round chimneys, inside cavity walls, within boxed-in eaves etc.  

Assuming that there are no medical phobia complications involving either party, bats and people can usually co-exist in peace.  Things can get difficult, however, when bats start to find their way into the living areas of the house.

For this family it all started when they sat down to watch Corrie and a bat flew out from behind the tv and flapped its way round the room.  I must say that would cause even me - arch bat fan - to jump.  Now they find bats in the house on average every other day during the summer. In the bathroom, flying round the hall and stairway, in the sink, on the side of the bath, crawling down the stair carpet, in the bedrooms. Everywhere. Bat droppings on the window ledges outside and on the kitchen benches inside.  A favourite spot is hanging on the back of the telly. When they got their luggage scanned at Schiphol airport they were pulled over and searched because there was a bat in their case and the skeleton showed up on the X-ray.  Bat preservation is all well and good but take it from me, there is nothing in bat protection legislation that obliges you to take your bats on holiday with you.

These tolerant but now very bat-weary people are having their home life ruined by their lodgers. They have been led to believe that because bats are protected there is nothing that can be done. The truth is that bats in the living spaces of private dwelling houses is something up with which you do not have to put.  This is a home that hosts a few bats not a bat roost that hosts a few humans. 

I am now working with the owners to see if we can establish how the bats are getting from the roost site into the living spaces so that we can take practical measures to prevent this without affecting the roost itself.  I'll keep you posted.

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