• Bats much more beneficial than harmful

  • Bats don't cause as much harm as one would think.

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Pests like rodents and insects are common problems a person has to deal with in the home throughout the year. While an inconvenience, they are usually fairly easy to get rid of and control with traps and pesticides, but what happens when the home becomes infested with other species such as bats?
    “Bats, like all things, are looking for a nice place to live and then they’re looking for food and water,” said Neil Bass, natural resources specialist for the Department of Public Works.
    With these criteria, Bass said Fort Leavenworth provides an ideal habitat for bats, the most common being the big brown bat or Eptesicus fuscus.
    “Around here, they have (food and water) everywhere because we’ve got the Missouri River, streams and lakes that are producing aquatic insects that become flying insects, which is what bats eat, so they’ve got a huge food (and water) source,” Bass said.
    “Big brown bats like using people’s structures because houses and buildings have these great attics that are a dark, climate-controlled space. They’re ideal. That’s what they like.”
    Recently, Pioneer Chapel was affected by a big brown bat infestation that closed the chapel for services for two weeks.
    “They’re getting in the attic,” Bass said.
    Bass said in reality, the bats had been living in the attic for several years. It became a problem when they started crawling down the support beam near the organ. Experts determined that it probably got too hot in the attic for the bats and they were looking for a more climate-controlled space.
    Though Entomology sealed the building long ago, all it takes is a one-inch crack or opening for bats to squeeze through.
    “Then they can come and go as they please,” Bass said.
    The best way to get rid of bats, Bass said, is to use Batcone Wildlife Excluders, which are funnels with a door that only allow one way out. Excluders were the main method used at the chapel.
    “The ideal is the bats come out, they go through the hole and then they can’t get back in assuming they don’t know another hole to get through,” he said.
    The key thing is the timing of when excluders are put in place because of maternity colonies.
    “You don’t want to exclude the females because then you’re leaving all these pups that are going to die up in your attic (because they can’t fly),” Bass said.
    “If you can find where they’re coming and going, (put these excluders on) early in the spring when they first come back before they have young … or after Aug. 1.
    Page 2 of 2 - “They say most breeding and most pups can fly after Aug. 1 and will be old enough to get out and be excluded as well,” he said. “Once you think you got them excluded, just seal up those cracks.”
    Bass said just because bats are removed, it doesn’t mean they won’t come back.
    “Your expectations should be, ‘I’ve taken care of that but there could be more,’” he said. “It’s hard to win.”
    While bats are inconvenient, Bass said there’s a small chance of them actually causing harm to people or pets, and actually are more beneficial than they are harmful.
    “They do carry rabies but you and your pets are much more likely to get rabies from skunks and raccoons than you are from a bat,” he said.
    While bat guano can cause histoplasmosis — an airborne infectious disease that usually begins in the lungs — Bass said it is usually only a concern if one is constantly exposed.
    “It would have to be like you’ve got tons of guano and you’re up there digging around in it,” he said.
    “Bats eat tons of insects and they can eat their body weight a night in (insects),” Bass said. “The numbers are pretty staggering in the tons of insects that are consumed. These insects are mosquitos that are a nuisance carrying diseases, crops pests and beetles that kill trees. So, they’re very beneficial.”
    If there is a suspected bat infestation in an on-post home, residents can contact Fort Leavenworth Frontier Heritage Communities. For other on-post buildings, notify building management so Entomology is called.
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