Batty over poop
If you are seeing bats in your area where they have never been before, this is for real.
Fruit bats have been seen even by those who live in the Knysna CBD.
Not everybody welcomes these fruit bats, as one resident said anonymously on the KPH website, after noticing the growing number of houses decorated in bat poop – or “guano” as it is known in scientific circles.
“This is becoming a huge and costly problem to homeowners as the guano contains acid and eats away at the paint as well as making an unsightly mess. Houses are not the only victim, but vehicles parked outside are also affected,” the person comments, ending off by asking if anyone knows of a solution to combat the problem.
Riaan Bosch, owner of NPO Bees for Nature, is all too familiar with the Egyptian fruit bat, and knows all too well how potent their guano can be.
“The unfortunate answer is that there is currently no proven way to keep these bats from entering our area or dropping their guano all over. I have done extensive research into the matter and hope to find a solution soon,” he says.
These fruit bats are long-distance pollinators, he says, meaning they do not stay in one area for too long as they go where sustenance is available – a slight comfort to those plagued by the poopdropping creatures. “They travel extremely far distances in search of food which is also quite necessary for our ecosystem to survive. Since the fires destroyed much of their natural habitat they are now coming into town to find food. Their stomach acid allows the protective layer around seeds to be eaten away and when it is dropped, the seeds are able to germinate,” explains Bosch.
Currently these bats are after the tiny fruits one finds on palm trees, but in a few months they will move over to syringa and milkwood trees, Bosch says, adding that the whole Western Cape is experiencing the problem at present.
“People must remember we built in nature and now we have to be patient and deal with it.”
These tips might help:
As owls are their natural enemy, Bosch suggests erecting an owl box in your garden – something he can definitely help with.
Clean the guano off your vehicle as soon as you notice it. “Once it has dried it is too late,” says Bosch.
Do not put out poison as this will have a much wider effect than just killing off the bats. Fruit bats nest in trees, not in houses.
A bright light shining onto trees favoured by the bats might help.
Keep your vehicle in the garage or cover it with a sheet or sail.
What makes things even trickier, Bosch says, is that the habits and lives of other creatures need to be considered when it comes to finding a workable solution. He is currently awaiting a device from the US that has been proven to scare away insect-eating bats, which he is planning to try out on their fruit-eating counterparts.
“If anyone does notice a nesting site near their home, I ask that they contact me immediately. It would be very interesting to see and I would like to come experiment with what might work on these bats. For now though, people must be patient and remember that these bats will leave once the food source has been depleted,” he says.
* For more information or to find out about the owl boxes, contact Bosch on 082 298 5847.