Holy microbat! - Bats in the belfry

KINGSTON microbats are currently in a feeding frenzy as they fatten up on insects to see them through the coming winter.

If they have taken up residence in your roof or walls, autumn is a good time for a gentle bat eviction before they bunk down for their winter hibernation.

The Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife's Backyard Buddies program is all about getting more enjoyment from native animals in your backyard.

It provides tips and advice on how to make your backyard a haven for our insect-controlling microbat mates.

South East Coast & Marine Officer Cath Bell said; "From time to time our office gets calls from local residents regarding bats and the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife provided great tips for residents dealing with this problem."

"Microbats are much more common than you may think," says Ms Susanna Bradshaw, CEO of the Foundation for National Parks & Wildlife, which runs the Backyard Buddies program.

"Right now, bats are eating as much as 40% of their own body weight in a single night or several hundred insects per hour."

"Many of our microbat species are hollow-dependent which means they live during the daylight hours inside the hollows of trees or branches.

Competition from birds, possums and gliders, along with the clearing of many old trees, means that microbats may find the roof or walls of your home the perfect roosting place," said Ms Bradshaw.

The smallest microbat weighs only 3 grams - about the same as a single serve sugar sachet or a single A4 sheet of paper.

If these tiny bats cannot find a suitable hollow, they can slip into gaps as small as 5mm and snuggle down in your roof and walls.

This is why artificial roost sites are important as they provide an alternative that everyone can be happy with.

Visit www.backyardbuddies.net.au to find how to build your own microbat roost box, and download a free fact sheet about microbats.

So what do you do if you find resident microbats sharing your home? Fortunately for the little bats, there are humane ways to evict them and now is the time.

In Australia, microbat babies are born in late spring and remain with their mothers until the end of January.

Gentle autumn eviction attempts after February and before June make certain that the young are independent.

After all, the little bats deserve no harm for taking advantage of 'faulty' homes.

"Kingston microbats are fully protected which might raise the issue of offences and penalties if any are in fact harmed," explains Ms Bradshaw.

"If you want microbats out of your walls, first provide an alternative roost site outside such as a nest box.

Then, if done correctly, your walls can become bat free and the little bats will happily stick around your backyard to go about their insect eating work, which is of great benefit to all of us."

If you have microbats in your walls or roof, visit Bat Rescue Inc. at http://www.batrescue.org.au for detailed information on how to remove them.

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