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October 7, 2003

BATS IN THE ATTIC

Q I have had several calls this summer for bats. I usually do not perform any bat work but I have seen several articles and presentations that talk about expanding into this type of control. What are some of the issues that our company needs to review to perform such work? Are there any laws or regulations governing the control of these animals?


A The answer is "maybe." First, bats are considered beneficial animals to the environment. They are prodigious insect eaters and many people and organizations support the creation of bat habitats or try to preserve them. Of course, to the person who has bats hanging around their house (no pun intended) such pests can raise some questions.

Bats have received bad press. The question of rabies — although fairly rare in bat colonies — always comes up. Sooner or later someone will be bitten or come in contact with a bat and the rabies "card" will be played by the local media. But there are plenty of reasons for not having bats in a structure: they create a mess; they create odors; and the guano attracts insects and possibly other house-infesting pests, like Dermestids and bat bugs.

The guano also can be a source for histoplasmosis and other fungal organisms that can affect the occupants or those cleaning up the guano. Technicians working in these areas should wear protective clothing coveralls (Tyvec®), a respirator, gloves and goggles (not real comfortable in hot attics).

As for laws and regulations, most bats that colonize in structures that pest management professionals must deal with are little or big brown bats, free-tail bats in the West and maybe a few others. Some bats are protected species and some states have addressed "control" questions by limiting commercial bat work to those months when the young are not present. This usually occurs in a several month span from May to August.

Many companies perform bat exclusion work. I suggest sealing holes that bats use to enter and leave the structure. Many types of devices have been used, including traps and one-way "doors," that allow bats to leave and then seals them out.

Keep in mind that it takes some time for a pest management professional to inspect, plan and perform a proper bat removal job.


TICK POPULATIONS RISING

Q I have been in the pest control industry for more than 24 years and have never seen ticks in the numbers I have seen this year. I have an account where the family dog is picking up ticks in the backyard in large numbers. The dog then brings the ticks inside where they fall or crawl off. I have used pyrethroid sprays inside and outside, on the yard and around the foundation but these pests are still a big problem. What is the solution?

A There has been an overabundance of ticks this year along the East Coast; this may be related to the weather. Populations are high, with many reports from pest management professionals about increased tick populations.

The approach with pyrethroid applications is a good one, as these products have given good control in the past. The relative failure you may be experiencing also may be due to the rainy wet weather affecting the residual and deposits of the insecticides outside.

I would be interested to know what type of tick we’re dealing with here. In addition, ticks feed on a wide variety of animals; maybe there are some other animals entering the yard like raccoons, opossums, squirrels, etc., that can account for elevated tick populations.

The only tick that can lay eggs inside is the brown dog tick. The females lay eggs inside the structure after feeding and falling off the animal. With the treatment the animal is reportedly getting, I would not see this being a problem as on-animal flea and tick treatments are excellent. These contain active ingredients of the commonly use pesticides imidacloprid, fipronil, etc. If the ticks are crawling off before or after feeding then they will seek cracks and crevices — for which they may crawl some distance to find. Applications of wettable powders and encapsulated materials into cracks and crevices will kill ticks entering these areas.

You also must remember that ticks are not insects and do not "absorb" insecticides the same way insects do — that means walking over a sprayed surface will not kill ticks immediately. In addition, an IGR will have little (if any) effect. I would recommend trying an encapsulated product rather then a wettable powder and see if that makes a difference.

CHIMNEY SWIFTS

Q I had a customer complain about bats in a chimney. When I got there to
inspect I did not see any signs of bats; there were no odors or guano but I did hear birds, which I assume to be some type of swallow. What is the easiest way to deal with this type of problem?


A These birds are probably chimney swifts. They are swallow-type birds that
feed on insects. The most important issue with these animals is that they are migratory birds. Because of that, they are protected by fish and wildlife agencies and special permits may have to be obtained to deal with removals or destruction of any nesting situations. Obviously the homeowners want them gone because of the noise and droppings. Any work with these birds should be explained and looked into with local state agencies. After the birds have fledged they can be forced out or they will leave on their own when disturbed. Then the chimney can be cleaned if desired — and most importantly capped to prevent future recurrences.

The author is president of George Rambo Consulting Services, Central, S.C. Fax questions to him at 864/654-2447 or via e-mail at grambo@pctonline.com.