By Martin Moore.
With a background in conservation I am quite fond of bats, which is a good thing because I have shared my home with a significant maternity colony for over 20 years and, as the house is very old, they could have been using it for much longer than I have. The maternity colony and mating roost - an activity which follows the birth of the young, is a summer event, in winter the bats relocate to a cool quiet place to hibernate. Generally, unless we are doing some maintenance work on the roof the bats don’t trouble us and we don’t bother them, most people wouldn’t even notice they were there.
The UK is currently home to 18 species of bat, all of which have European protection, and as such, special consideration must be given to properties where bats have taken up home - as not only do they have strong legal protection, their roosts do too. This can have an impact if you are selling your home or planning work on a property you have bought.
Under Consumer Protection Regulations it is essential that you advise any potential buyers if bats are found to be nesting, roosting or hibernating in a property you are selling, as withholding the information may have influenced their decision to buy and could result in a compensation claim.
If you are planning work on a property where bats are present you need to be aware that It is a criminal offence to deliberately capture, injure or kill a bat; intentionally or recklessly disturb a bat in its roost, or a group of bats; damage or destroy a bat roosting place (even if bats are not occupying the roost at the time); or intentionally or recklessly obstruct access to a bat roost. With any project that creates a risk of disturbance to bats, or indeed any other protected species, it is vital to seek advice, start preparations early and plan ahead. There are a range of measures that can be undertaken including the timing of any move or planned work to avoid the breeding season and the installation of bat boxes to re-house any bats.
I do find that some people overreact to the presence bats so to dispel those concerns here are some myth busting facts from the National Association of Estate Agents.
Bats are not rodents, and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation.
Bats do not build nests and therefore do not bring bedding material into the roost; neither do they bring their insect prey into the roost.
All bats in the UK eat insects, so they are a great form of natural pest control.
Female bats usually have only one baby a year, so properties do not become 'infested'.
Bats are clean and sociable animals and spend many hours grooming themselves.
Bat droppings in the UK are dry and crumble away to dust. As a result, there are no known health risks associated with them.
The threat of rabies from UK bats is extremely low. Rabies can only be transmitted through a bite or scratch from an infected bat, so if you're not handing them, you aren't at risk.
It is quite easy to conduct your own bat survey, on a calm, warm evening wait until the sun sets, find a comfortable chair and as dusk moves in watch the eaves of your property just below the roof. The bats will be hungry and will soon start to come out to feed, be patient as if could take up to an hour for them all to leave but you should get a rough count of the numbers present. Identification is more difficult, but you are most likely to see the tiny pipistrelle bat.
The situation is more complicated with a hibernation site as the bats present will be inactive and still under strict legal protection, so only a proper inspection by a specialist would be permitted.
There is a lot of information available about bats and how to protect them, a good starting point is the Bat Conservation Trust ( ) who have a National Bat Helpline 0345 1300 228