Bats are flying mammals that regularly feed upon insects and fruits. About 10 bat species out of 1,000 feed upon the blood of other mammals, although the U.S. varieties feed strictly on insects. Bats like to nest in crawl spaces such as attics and barns and can often leave behind bat droppings, or guano, even after the problem has been eradicated. Understanding how to properly rid your home of objectionable odors and bat droppings is important to the health of you and your family.
Bat droppings can pile up quickly and produce a strong, rancid, ammonia smell during the decomposition process that is highly unpleasant. With heavy bat infestations, bat guano can accumulate in piles high enough to rot sheetrock and in some cases even cause collapse. Excretions can drip through the ceiling, producing unsanitary splotches on ceilings that can harbor disease. Cleaning up bat droppings should be done carefully, as the dried-out guano carries dangerous spores for years even after the bats are removed and may contaminate storage items in attics and crawl spaces.
Histoplasma capsulatum is an airborne fungus that grows in soil or materials covered in bat droppings. Airborne spores take flight when the area has been disturbed, and breathing them in can cause an infection called histoplasmosis. This disease is often hard to detect and in some cases does not produce any symptoms at all. It is unresponsive to tuberculosis treatments, so exposure should be avoided. It is important during the removal process that you are properly protected from inhaling the spores.
It is always best to have the area decontaminated by a professional, but for those wishing to perform the work personally, a respirator or a Hepa filter device should be worn when removing bat droppings. You should also wear an inexpensive plastic coverall, gloves and goggles. You may also wish to wear a headlamp in order to view the area you will be cleaning more properly. Protective wear may be purchased online or in some hardware and department stores.
Some professionals recommend lightly wetting the bat droppings to cut down on the amount of airborne spores while cleaning. Vacuum the bat guano up with a shop vacuum or other device that is not as likely to put as much dust back into the air as you are sucking up, making sure to fully remove any pockets of insect infestation you may find in the area. In worst-case scenarios, insulation and sheetrock may need to be removed in order to get to all of the droppings.
Once the guano is removed, the area should be thoroughly sprayed down with a decontaminant and deodorizer. Many professional companies use an enzyme-based biohazard decontaminant that may be available for purchase online. Check with your local pest control expert for details. Other strong decontaminants that destroy bacteria and germs may also be used. Treat the area and allow it to dry for 12 hours, repeating after 12 hours for particularly severe infestations. If a bat odor is still noticeable after an additional 24 hours has passed, wait another 24 hours to treat a third time. This should take care of the odor problem.
Abaigeal Quinn works as an international entertainment broker in the United States. She is a former news editor and insurance agent who began writing for a daily newspaper in 1995.