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Bats in the Belfry: The educational conclusion

After you are told by the Batman in the middle of the night that you may have a bat colony in your attic, sleep does not come easy. 

In my last blog post, I wrote about the night we were visited by a bat. There was a bat in our house. We saw it one minute and it flitted to an unknown location the next.  

If you live up in the cold North like I do, and have not had the sufficient funds to replace every charming leaky window in your 77-year-old home, then you are familiar with the practice of wrapping your windows in shrink plastic for insulation.  On The Night of the Bat, the wind outside howled, causing the plastic wrap on our bedroom wrinkle and crinkle.   Of course, I mistook every wrinkle and crinkle for the wings of a bat and shot straight up in bed every 10 minutes throughout the night. I’d never wanted morning to come so badly.  

Have you ever had a bat loose in your house in the middle of the night? I later learned that we were not alone in this experience.  Bats seem to be a common occurance in older, charming homes. Bats are the one uncharming feature that the realtor leaves off the charming English Tudor house listing.

We shared this story the next day with many of our friends. One couple we know,  who are avid campers, said when a bat swooshed over their heads in bed one night, they didn’t hesitate to pitch a tent over their bed to get a good night’s sleep.

I’ll have to remember that for the next time.

Morning finally came. I probably slept for two hours at best and my nerves were fried when my husband woke me to tell me about his discovery.

“You have to see this, I found the bat!”

He led me to our living room and I think I hid my head in his shoulder all the way down the stairs. Behind the honeycomb shades, up by the ceiling, there was a small shadow. Suddenly, this terrifying creature of the night seemed harmless. Even vulnerable. I quickly put on my boots and ran outside to get a better look.

Between the living room window and the shade, our winged intruder hung upside down and was fast asleep. I have to admit, swaddled in its pale grey wings, this small bat, the same creature that terrorized me, looked pretty cute.

A few hours later the Batman came for a visit. No, it wasn’t the Dark Knight or Caped Crusader of comic book fame. Just a guy with a five o’clock shadow at 10 a.m. wearing a red and black lumberjack flanel and jeans ripped through the knee.

He asked if our kids were around because they might like to see the bat up close and personal.

My fearless children ran down the stairs in their slippers to watch what became their own private wildlife demonstration. The Batman put on heavy gloves, produced a coffee can with holes cut in its lid, and gently removed the bat from our window shade. It was tiny, it was frightened, and now, in the capable hands of the Batman, it would be released into the wild.

As much as we love nature and wildlife, we resolved to keep these creatures out of our house for good. And no, upon further inpsection, we did not have a colony of bats in our attic.

What we did have was a lot of holes and cracks. Bats have a very flexible skeleton and can slip into a crevice the size of a matchbox. The Batman’s price for bat removal: $50. The Batman’s asking price for bat proofing my home: $1300.

After recovering from the sticker shock, we then called in another local hero: Leroy. Leroy is one of those guys that everyone knows by first name only and his name gets passed around by all the neighbors. For half the Batman’s asking price, he batproofed our home and gave me a full education on how you know if a bat is in your home.

1. Evidence of guano, or bat poop in your attic. Enough said here.

2.  Look at places like attic louvers, where the chimney joins the house, and gable ends of your house structure itself.  To my shock, I could put my eye between chimmney in our attic and the house frame and SEE outside. So this is where the critters were getting in. Leroy then used foam insulation and sealed up the gap like this:

  Keep in mind that sealing the opening must be done while also leaving for a way for bats to exit without re-entering the space. In an ingenious use of pantyhose, Leroy created a contraption that allowed a one-way exit for any bats that may have remained in our attic. If the openings are blocked during the daylight hours, the bats would have been sealed inside with the rest of the family.

I am happy to report that this story happened seven years ago and this house is clean of its bats. All the children are healthy rabies-free and none foam at the mouth. I wish you a bat-free winter and remember — bats really are harmless for the most part and want nothing to do with you, or your hair.

The only thing our society needs to fear – bedbugs!

Good night.

The Bats in My Belfry: Part I

Could there be a colony of bats in your attic?

Since this is the Season of the Witch and all things creepy, it’s time to share a scary, true story with a very educational ending.  This story is about bats … and the Batman.

I love our old house. We live in a 1920’s English Tudor with all the old-world English Tudor charm. This charm includes leaded glass windows that are beautiful yet leak in the cold Rochester winter drafts, and copper plumbing that offers enough water pressure to either take a shower OR run the washing machine, but not both at the same time.

It also features a walk-up, half-finished attic, with its own bedroom/bathroom suite and a claw foot tub in the bathroom. This is where all our guests spend the night.

I greatly respect and appreciate bats. I love that the average bat can consume 1,000 mosquitos per night, and how they use sonar to get around, and I love the children’s story Stellaluna.

I even worry about how white-nose syndrome is decimating bat populations in northeast. On October 28, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service posted new white-nose syndrome decontamination protocols and supporting documentation for cavers.

I want bats to have disease-free homes and be fruitful and multiply, just as long as their home is outside my home.

This is the part where things get scary.

One Saturday night, my husband and I were doing what we do on most Saturday nights: we were lying in bed watching Saturday Night Live. As you can see we do not get out much and that is why I blog for excitement.

We were nearly dozing off between the opening monologue and the musical guest when we thought we saw something fly by our bedroom door.

“Did you see that?”

“Wha….” my husband was nearly asleep…

“Um, did we close Charlie’s cage before we went to bed?” I asked, hopefully.

At the time, our daughter had a sweet green parakeet named Charlie. I desperately convinced myself that it was Charlie that just flew down the hall.  Charlie got out, yup.

Please let that winged thing be Charlie.

We went to our daughter’s bedroom. Charlie the parakeet was safe in his cage, door closed. But something was still flying in the hall. Something with a wingspan far larger than your average parakeet.

We could now safely say we had a bat in our house.

I ran screaming into the bathroom in our bedroom. My brave husband threw a towel over his head and went to pursue the winged rodent with our bed sheet.

Then, like that, it disappeared.

The only thing worse than having a bat in your house is knowing there is a bat in your house but not knowing where it is.

With towels over our heads, my husband and I crept down to the kitchen to get the telephone book to search for someone, anyone, to help us. We dialed the town animal control hotline only to learn their hours were from 10-4 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The outgoing message said to call 911 in an animal-related emergency.

Was this an emergency? SURE! There could be a rabid bat attacking us at any moment!

So my fingers shakily punched 911 and I alerted the local police that I had three sleeping children, including a 7-month-infant, and a bat was loose in my house.

In minutes, the police were at our door. Remember, this is Brighton, and not Staten Island, where years earlier I waited 45 minutes for police to arrive after calling about girls trying to break into my house to beat me up with a very different bat.

The friendly policeman came and humoured us by shining a flashlight all around the kids’ bedrooms and our living room, but found no bat.

“He probably found somewhere to hide. Bats are really shy and wherever he is, he will stay there till morning,” he reassured us.

This left me no comfort, and I scanned the Yellow Pages for more help after he left. By this time it was around 12:45 a.m.

Then, I found him. An ad for the Batman. From our bedroom, I called the number, figuring I would leave a message and someone would call me in the morning. Instead, to my surprise, I heard a low mysterious voice after a few rings.

“Hello?
“Um, are you — the Bat Man?”

“Yes, I am the Bat Man, how can I help you?”

I immediately apologized for calling at such a late hour, only to be answered with the Batman’s strange response.

“No need for apologies. This is usually the time when the calls come.”

Okaaayy. I told him the situation, and then he told me that this could wait until morning, that bats were very shy, want nothing to do with humans, and he would be by in the morning.

Oh, but one more thing, he said. There was a good possibility that if we found one bat, chances are there were not one – but a colony of bats in our attic.

A colony?

With that the Batman bid me goodnight.

Nighty night and sleep tight. Stay tuned for the conculsion of this bat tale.

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