Are Bats Dangerous to Humans?

It’s that spooky time of year, with all the things creepy displayed in stores and in front of homes: scary spiders, sinister crows, and vampire bats! Did you know that bats are associated with vampires because they are nocturnal and some of them suck blood? They are also associated with darkness, malevolence, witchcraft, and death. But are bats really dangerous to humans? Let’s do some “bat-ology” to find out!

What are Bats?

Bats may give the impression of being part of the rodent group because they kind of look like flying mice or rats. An older English name them is Flittermouse, which means ‘flying mouse’, but in fact, they belong to their own species in the Mammal group, called ‘Chiroptera’, which means hand-wing. With their forelimbs adapted as wings, they are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. Bats are actually a lot more maneuverable in the air than birds, since they fly with their very long and spread-out digits which are covered with a thin membrane called patagium. The smallest species is around 1 ¾ inches in length while the largest can be up to 12 inches.

Are They Really Vampires

Contrary to common belief, of the world’s 1000+ species, only 3 are vampire bats. Vampire bats are very small and apart from a few rare instances in Brazil, they usually do not attack humans or suck human blood. They prefer to get their snack of blood from other animals. The remaining 1097 or so species eat insects, fruit, nectar, and pollen.

Benefits of Bats

Did you know that they can actually help us? Here are some of the ways they help humans:

  • They protect our crops from insects. Bats consume billions of tons of insect pests each summer, reducing the need for pesticides and other insect management measures. 
  • Fruit bats also bring us over 450 commercial products and 80 medicines through pollination and seed dispersal. 
  • Over 95% of rainforest regrowth comes from seeds that have been spread by fruit bats.
  • Bat dung is still mined from caves in some parts of the world and used as fertilizer.

Do They Carry Rabies

Due to their physiology, bats, along with other species including foxes, skunks, and raccoons, are considered reservoirs for rabies. Since being highly mobile, social, and long-lived, they can readily spread disease among themselves. If humans interact with bats, these traits can become potentially dangerous to humans. 

However, the incidence of rabies is estimated to be less than 0.5 percent. They do not bite humans unless they are provoked. Even the occasional rabid bat seldom becomes aggressive. Since they are considered a rabies vector species in most places and, like all wild animals, can bite to defend themselves, it is crucial to take all necessary precautions to avoid potential exposure to the virus.

Bat Colonies

Bat colonies are sometimes found in attics in houses or other buildings. They never make holes in buildings as they enter through existing openings of a half-inch or more. These entrances are usually high up in the building—around roofs, chimneys, or in loose siding. Entry holes can be found by carefully observing activity at dusk when bats exit the building for their feeding time.

Humane exclusion services can be performed by a bat expert who will place netting over the entrance points. Using toxicants to control a bat colony is unwarranted and can actually cause more harm to the humans in the house than the bats themselves.

Once the bats have been completely removed, it is very important to clean up their droppings and urine. Histoplasmosis is a disease associated with the droppings of bats, also known as ‘guano’.  The disease primarily affects the lungs and can be life-threatening, particularly to those with a weakened immune system.  It is transmitted when a person inhales spores from the fungus that grows on bat droppings.  Clean-up of bat droppings and urine requires proper care with the use of safe chemicals by trained professionals. 

All-in-all, the main threat that bats present to humans is not sucking human blood, but the possible transmission of Rabies and Histoplasmosis. If they enter and nest in your home or place of business, make sure to seek the help of a bat removal service followed by a thorough and professional clean-up service.