In Australia there are over 14,000 Google searches per month for BAT POISON. Whether these relate to bat poison for bats or bat’s poisoning humans is unclear – however, what is clear is that we do have a bat problem.
The sound of fruit bats screeching while they fight for food at 3am in the morning is simply too horrible to describe and certainly not conducive to sleep. These denizens of the dark have had a justifiably bad rap over the years but I am desperately trying to keep some sort of perspective on the good that they do as well. On the plus side of the ledger bats have inspired the creation of ‘Dracula’ with all of his beguiling charms and more recently ‘Batman’ with those memorable sequels. Also, as I keep reminding my wife, even the seemingly most disgusting creatures usually perform a valuable service as well, in this case by dispersing native seeds and pollinating plants.
Unfortunately, the minus side of the ledger is somewhat longer. I have had broken sleep for the last month and am not a happy chappy. There are many people in communities up and down the east coast of Australia who live in, or directly alongside, huge colonies of flying foxes and suffer the stench, noise and lurking health hazards that these creatures embody. It should be noted that fruit bats (or flying foxes as they are widely known) can carry the Hendra virus and also Rabies, which is probably the single most scary disease on the planet. Little is publicised about other health implications related to bats but it is generally accepted that Bats, like birds, are likely to play a part in the creation of any future super virus.
If you have ever tried to get bat droppings off your car or house you know that these guys must have cast iron stomachs to produce what can best be described as brown concrete. If this unpleasant and hazardous poop dries your best bet is to get a bunch of toilet/tissue, wet it thoroughly and place it on the offending area and leave for thirty minutes to re-constitute. when you return it will come off a lot easier without damaging your paintwork – unless of course you forget it in which case it will revert to brown concrete again. Best to wear goves doing this – yuk!
Some say that Flying Fox populations are declining and that they should be further protected. I say that even if that is so, it would appear that they are declining from a very high base and there is room for such a natural re balance – after all we live here too. Possums are also protected but there is little evidence on the ground (or on my roof) that they are in any way endangered. Who said “there are lies, damm lies, and statistics.” How do you count bats and possums anyway?
How to Get Rid of Bats
The people who are batting for bats – and arguably baty themselves, certainly don’t want to live next door to them but if you are in that unfortunate position there are some things that you are permitted to do to help move them on:
If you live in the suburbs fruit bats are likely to be in lower numbers and be a problem when out on the town foraging. The single most important thing you can do to remove fruit bats is to identify any fruit bearing palm trees in the area paying special attention to Cocos Palms. Cocos palms are of particular interest as there are plenty around and they are a major food source. Fruit bats love Cocas Palms but the reverse cannot be said to be true as the green, unripened fruit is toxic to them. As you may have guessed, I’m not a bat lover but I don’t want to see the little devils suffer.
Get Rid of Cocas Palm Fruit
Have a word with your neighbours – who are most likely not fans of bats as well, and work to remove the fruit from the Cocas palms. The bats will let you know when it is time to do this and yes, it will be a yearly chore or a job for a professional tree climber or arborist. Some facts that will help persuade owners of Cocas Palms include; The fruit attracts bats, The fruit attracts rats and snakes (especially after the bats have had a go) and these may take up residence in the palm. The hands of fruit can weigh up to 70kg in mature palms and present a risk to people on the ground, the palm bracts and fruit are messy and there is a lot of it which will eventually end up on the ground, dead fronds (which are a hazard) can be removed at the same time, lastly, because fruit bats consume and disperse Cocas seeds, Cocas Palms are spread readily and are considered an invasive, environmental weed in most States in Australia.
Undertaken on a large scale these measures can reduce bat populations in broad areas by reducing local food sources. This is by no means a complete solution as there may be other sources of seasonal food available to fruit bats but if not you can finally enjoy an uninterrupted, good nights sleep.
Mango trees are another target of fruit bats but more difficult to defend. There are reports of success with sensor lights working well. On citrus trees you could try hanging old CD’s on the tree (fruit bats have excellent eyesight and diskike bright moving objects). You could of course use 40mm bird netting but this needs to be stretched over a frame and checked regularly so the bats don’t get entangled.
Anyway, good luck and keep up the good fight. Just thank your lucky stars that you don’t have a plague of crows during the day as well……………sweat dreams.