The Dangers of Bat Guano and Urine

Fecal pellets indicate the presence of animals and are found on attic floors, in wall recesses, and outside the house at its base. Fecal pellets along and inside walls may indicate the presence of mice, rats, or even roaches. Since most house bats north of Mexico are insectivorous, their droppings are easily distinguished from those of small rodents. Bat droppings tend to be segmented, elongated, and friable. When crushed, they become powdery and reveal shiny bits of undigested insect remains. In contrast, mice and rat droppings tend to taper, are unsegmented, are harder and more fibrous, and do not become powdery when crushed (unless extremely aged).

The droppings of some birds and lizards may occasionally be found along with those of bats. However, bat droppings never contain the white chalky material characteristic of the feces of these other animals.

Bat excrement produces an unpleasant odor as it decomposes in attics, wall spaces, and other voids. The pungent, musty, acrid odor can often be detected from outside a building containing a large or long-term colony. Similar odor problems occur when animals die in inaccessible locations. The odor also attracts arthropods which may later invade other areas of a building.

Bat guano may provide a growth medium for microorganisms, some of which are pathogenic (histoplasmosis, for example) to humans. Guano accumulations may fill spaces between walls, floors, and ceilings. It may create a safety hazard on floors, steps, and ladders, and may even collapse ceilings. Accumulations also result in the staining of ceilings, sofits, and siding, producing unsightly and unsanitary conditions.

Bats also urinate and defecate in flight, causing multiple spotting and staining on sides of buildings, windows, patio furniture, automobiles, and other objects at and near entry/exit holes or beneath roosts. Bat excrement may also contaminate stored food, commercial products, and work surfaces.

Bat urine readily crystallizes at room temperature. In warm conditions under roofs exposed to sun and on chimney walls, the urine evaporates so quickly that it crystallizes in great accumulations. Boards and beams saturated with urine acquire a whitish powder-like coating. With large numbers of bats, thick and hard stalactites and stalagmites of crystallized bat urine are occasionally formed.

Although the fresh urine of a single bat is relatively odorless, that of any moderate-sized colony is obvious, and the odor increases during damp weather. Over a long period of time urine may cause mild wood deterioration. As the urine saturates the surfaces of dry wood beams and crystallizes, the wood fibers expand and separate. These fibers then are torn loose by the bats crawling over such surfaces, resulting in wood fibers being mixed with guano accumulations underneath.

The close proximity of bat roosts to human living quarters can result in excreta, animal dander, fragments of arthropods, and various microorganisms entering air ducts as well as falling onto the unfortunate residents below. Such contaminants can result in airborne particles of public health significance (Frantz 1988).

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