Tuesday, August 02, 2005


So just when I thought all the wildlife excitement had died down - after Melina and I had dealt with the odious corpses in the cooler and all - there was more.

Up in the very hot attic which is found behind the louver pictured at right - looking for spare cups, glasses and forks for her new home in the Big Apple - Melina whispered down the ladder: come up and see something.

See bundles and bundles of bats (40 or more) squeezed between my attic louver and the screening I had presciently stapled up to cover it when the house was built. (Note screen's ominous bulge and substantial layer of guano at the bottom.) I since have been told this is a "maternal colony" of female bats and their nearly-grown-up babies.

Thinking "deal with this now, while the bats are still on the OUTSIDE of the screen," thinking "sometime soon there will surely be a breach in the screen and then bats will be on the INSIDE (the incorrect side)," I was inspired to act.

We went right to Lowe's and bought that nasty 1/4 inch hardware cloth and I went up into the extremely hot attic and laid out the prickly uncooperative stuff and cut a louver-sized triangle (with a notch for the ridgepole).

But then I looked up at the bats and saw the problem was worse than I'd thought - there were now at least three little bodies on the INCORRECT side of the screen, huddled right up against the ones on the correct side. Breach! (The pictures here, by the way, were taken before the incorrect bats showed up.)

How to get the hardware cloth shield up without bats swirling around my head? After a call to Critter Control and a visit to Bat Conservation International I had no answer, hence did what I'd been going to do anyway.

I hauled a couple ladders up into the attic and Melina and I just started jamming the hardware cloth up into place and the commotion caused all the bats but five to fly away properly. Two, more tired or perhaps more phlegmatic than the others, stayed put as I hammered, shifting from slat to slat. I was just a bad dream to them. Of the three on the INCORRECT side, one squeezed through a gap near the ridge (sigh) and escaped. Two, as predicted, commenced circling wildly around our heads.

So we threw ourselves down the ladders and commenced cowering behind the microfilm machine. Melina put a blanket over her head and, sweating away, we watched the circling for a while.

Then I got a grip and put up the hardware cloth using about a hundred of those hammer-in staples.

No bat is EVER going to get to the incorrect side of the screen via the louver again. As for the other breaches, there will have to be some other - future - solution.

This is happening all over the Triangle. After I told him this exciting story, a friend googled my bat problem and then sent an article from Monday's News & Observer which said:

Thousands of big brown bats are fluttering out of Triangle attics.

They've been holed up there for birthing season since May, and now that the young can fly, they are tearing off on a nightly swarm.

"It does seem like we've got a little boost," said Bob Jankowski, who owns Critter Control in Durham. "We probably have 70 bat jobs on hold right now."

"I'm up to 65 houses," said Tad Bassett, who owns Triangle Wildlife Removal and treated Wilburn's house. "They're watching TV and drinking beer up there."

About four years ago, Bassett chased 2,000 of them out of the YMCA on Hillsborough Street.

Now if you do decide to "exclude" bats from your belfry, you must provide them with alternate lodgings. My dad built me a bat house once, and here is the plan he sent me in case I wanted to build my own. (Click for a larger view.)

Sadly, bats have never lived in the bathouse my dad built - I don't have a tall enough ladder to mount it as high in the pine tree as they like.

Melina's gone now, heading north. Here is the pile of just some of the stuff she had to cram into her already-full car.

Yesterday's final excitement gave her something to talk about over dinner in the cavernous mansion of her friend's lawyer parents in DC.

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At 12:12 PM, Blogger Isabella said...

Holy bats, batwoman!

Years ago, I had one bat come in through a hole in a closet ceiling. I was terrified at first, cuz he kept flying into me (cuz the apartment was so small). I finally escorted him out the door to the balcony. He came back a few times, so I named him. I wouldn't keep 40 of them though.

(Slow down your output a little — I can't keep up!)

At 10:49 PM, Anonymous Amy said...

"A friend Googled my bat problem," I just love that. And "incorrect bats."

The photos are sort of horrifying, fascinating and beautiful, at once.

I really haven't made up my mind about bats yet. And still after reading this.

At 12:30 AM, Blogger Nancy said...

I grew up in an old, old brownstone. The attic was sealed off (way before we moved in) but we had bats in there. One of them escaped (somehow) and flew around the house. Of course, I wasn't home when this happened, since I'm never around for the exciting stuff!

At 7:17 AM, Blogger Tamar said...

This is a fabulous story. I started gasping from the first photograph. I think that you are nothing short of being a hero. I have read it three times and still I gasp from the first photograph.

At 8:48 AM, Blogger phoenix said...

All I can say is wow. That is a ton of bats!! Thanks for the drawings though... we have been looking for a good and easy to make bat house. We have mosquito's bad here due to a drainage backup.

Hope you eventually get it all sealed off!!

At 9:54 AM, Blogger Truly Scrumptious said...

Oh I love this! You got to see bats up close! Hee hee :)

We went to see the bats that migrate here from about March to May, I think. They are found in this nearby canal and the city estimates that there are about a million of them.

I am fascinated by their characteristics, but I must say that I wouldn't care for them on the incorrect side of my house either.

The bathouse is a great idea. They are experts at keeping down mosquitoes and other insects.


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