Bats (Families in UK. Rhinolophidae and Vespertilonidae)
Bat conservation and the pest control
Any person carrying out work in roof spaces must consult the relevant Government agency for nature conservation if it is suspected that the area is in use by bats or if bats are discovered during a survey. A free leaflet entitled, “Bats in Roofs – a Guide for Surveyors ” is available from English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage.
The Bat Conservation Trust urges the use of safer chemicals when carrying out any type of insect pest control. Permethrin and Cypermethrin are least harmful to mammals, including people and pets, as well as bats. Having said that, it is preferred that other methods of insect control are adopted without the use of pesticides. English Nature can be contacted for a list of safer products when one is in the proximity of bats.
Bats and the law- Legislation:
Bats and their roosts are protected in the UK by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) and The Conservation Regulations dated 1994. All species of bat in Britain are protected under Schedule 5 of this act.
In Northern Ireland bats are protected under by the Wildlife (Northern Ireland order 1985) In the Isle of Man the Wildlife Act 1990 is relevant.
The Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 (covers England and Wales).
The Habitats Directive (Council Directive 92/43/EEC) on the conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora.
If the presence of bat colonies is suspected in a building, even if bats are not found at the time of survey, the relevant country agency for nature conservation must be consulted and advice sought. They will indicate the best way of solving any problems prior to anyone undertaking work. This will ensure bat safety. Some 14 countries in Europe are signatories to the Agreement on the Conservation of Bats in Europe 1994.
Currently it is an offence to carry out any of the following activities:
o To cause damage or destroy any bat roost
o To intentionally or maliciously obstruct a bat roost by carrying out proofing work to a building preventing them gaining access or denying bats leaving
o To deliberately, intentionally or accidentally disturb a bat
o To intentionally kill, injure or capture any bat species
o To handle bats unless licensed
o To sell or hire bats (dead or alive)
o To keep bats in captivity
o To be in possession of dead bats
Any person may catch and release a bat found in the living occupancy areas within a house, especially when it has flown indoors accidentally. You may also tend to a disabled bat, releasing it when it eventually recovers; the law also allows us to despatch a seriously injured or disabled bat. If you suspect that any party has committed an offence, you should contact the local police – wildlife liaison officer and report the incident to the Bat Conservation Trust. Please consult the relevant legislation for a full account of the law.
o There are just 16 species of bats found in Britain, the smallest is known as the Pipistrelle bat and weighs in at 4gm, the Noctule bat being the largest is just 40gm.
o Bats are the only flying mammals, some species of squirrels are said to fly but in fact they can only glide.
o Bats make up almost a quarter of all known animal species in the World
o Bats are not only warm-blooded but suckle their young and are excellent parents and being very sociable they prefer to live in colonies.
o Many bats live up to 20 years and they are said to be very intelligent.
o Being highly mobile in the air, bats are generally much more agile than birds
o Flying in the dark and at dusk they can produce high-pitched calls and the resulting echoes give them a superb sound – picture of their immediate surroundings.
o On average a bat can consume 3,500 insects a night, these are mainly gnats, flies and mosquitoes.
o Bats mate in the autumn and hibernate in the winter when insects are scarce; they go into hibernation to save energy, reducing heartbeat and body temperature.
o Bats sometimes roost in houses in the winter but are rarely found, many occupy cellars and tunnels.
How do we know if a building is in use as a bat colony – Roost identification?
When Britain was heavily forested, bats roosted in holes in old hollow trees and commonly in caves. Following the removal of many heavily wooded and forested areas in the UK, especially for use as building timber, ship-building and firewood, bats have sought alternative roosts and are often found in buildings today.
There are some 16 species of bat native to the British Isles and, being insectivorous, all depend, to varying degrees on habitats in which trees and buildings are a significant constituent. Those involved in woodland management and agriculture should note that trees are used as roost sites, feeding perches, shelter, for flight paths and as a supporter of food sources.
At least ten species roost in trees often close to buildings, namely: Leisler’s, Noctule, Natterer’s, Daubenton’s, Bechstein’s, Whiskered, Brandt’s, Brown long- eared, Pipistrelle species and the Barbastelle.
The bats physical characteristics, reproductive strategies and lifestyles leave them vulnerable to environmental change and they are declining not only nationally but also globally. The Statutory Nature Conservation Organization (SNCO) must be consulted before starting any work on trees which bats are using as roosts. Sufficient time should be allowed for the SNCO to conduct a survey, comment and make recommendations. The Habitats Regulations strengthen this legal protection, in particular regulation 44 which provides for the issuing of licenses by MAFF, the DETR, the Scottish Office or the Welsh Office for permission to undertake work on bat roosts.
Bat droppings and general public ignorance:
Only rarely are bats actually seen in a roof space because most species crawl into tiny crevices under tiles, fascia boards or under felt. If mouse-like droppings are discovered on windows or in roof spaces, do not assume it is mice. Mouse droppings are similar in size but do not crumble, they also contain minute hairs that the rodent ingests whilst grooming itself. This evidently helps in its digestion acting as roughage. Bat droppings consist mainly of the indigestible hard parts of insects including insect wings, wing cases and legs; hence they do not present a hazard to health. Bats do not smell and their droppings being dry are odourless. Fruit bats in the tropics have wet droppings that smell unpleasant.
If droppings are considered a nuisance on items stored in the roof e.g. furniture or other effects, we should move these to areas that are dropping free or cover with newspaper or suitable sheeting.
Most householders realize just how harmless bats are and are happy to have these fascinating animals roosting in their attic or roof space thus playing a vital role in bat conservation! When bats are discovered, please contact the local bat group giving them the opportunity to visit the premises and confirm bat species identification, this will help them with their National Bat Monitoring Programme.
Local Bat Groups:
There is a UK-wide network of over 90 volunteer-based local bat groups working to protect and conserve Britain’s bats. The Bat Conservation Trust will put you in contact with the closest local group and people can actively help to protect the local bat population. Most groups organize training, especially for people who wish to become licensed as bat workers. Please initially forward queries by email to the Bat Conservation Trust at enquiries(5),bats.org.uk.
Contact names and addresses for many Bat Groups are listed on this site. Remember that the names given are often volunteers so please be considerate when making a call.
Some useful addresses are: –
o English Nature Northminster House, Peterborough, PE1 1UA. Tel: 01733 455000
o Countryside Council for Wales, Plas Penrhos, Ffordd Penrhos, Bangor, Gwynedd, LL57 2LQ. Tel: 01248 370444
o Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland 12 Hope Terrace, Edinburgh, EH9 2AS. Tel: 0131 4474784
o Department of Environment (Northern Ireland), Environment Service, Commonwealth House, 35 Castle Place, Belfast, BT1 1GH. Tel: 01232 251477
For details of the local bat groups contact details are available from
o The Bat Conservation Trust, 15 Cloisters House, 8 Battersea Park Road, London, SW8 4BG. Tel: 020 7627 2629. Fax: 020 7627 2628. E-mail: enquiries(S)bats.org.uk
o The Vincent Wildlife Trust, 10 Lovat Lane, London, EC3R 8DT. Tel: 0207 283 2089
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