What is a bat roost?
A bat roost is defined as any place that a wild bat uses for shelter or protection. This means a roost could be a single bat, or a number of bats.
Your building offers a safe place/home
Bats are amazing animals that are important to ecosystems worldwide. In the UK, all 18 resident bat species feed on insects like midges, flies and moths (and some eat spiders too). So, they are valuable in helping to keep insect populations in check, which is not just good for people, but can have benefits for crops and gardens.
All 18 species of bats in the UK are protected under UK and European law and bat roosts are protected whether bats are present in the roost or not.
Unfortunately, bat populations in the UK have declined dramatically over the past century due to persecution and habitat loss.
As their natural habitats have been lost, like barn owls and swifts, bats have adapted to roost in buildings for shelter. Buildings, like our homes, often make excellent roosting spaces for bats as they are thermally stable. This is particularly important in the summer months when female bats need warm spaces to rear their one tiny pink pup.
The good news is that some bat species have recently shown some signs of increasing and by allowing your tiny tenants to lodge with you, you are helping to secure their future in an ever-changing world.
What do I need to know as a roost owner?
Because of their nocturnal natures, bats are not too often seen or encountered by humans. This, combined with their unique characteristics, means that there are understandably many misconceptions that people may have about bats.
It is therefore important to know that:
- Bats are protected by law, it is therefore not generally possible to remove or rehome bats and advice is required if you need to carry out any works that may affect the roost.
- Bats are not rodents, and will not nibble or gnaw at wood, wires or insulation.
- Bats do not build nests and therefore do not bring bedding material into the roost; neither do they bring live insect prey into the roost.
- All bats in the UK eat insects, so they are a great form of natural pest control!
- There are no known health risks associated with bat droppings, as bat droppings in the UK are dry and crumble away to dust. However we do advice wearing a dust mask and gloves if you are clearing away droppings.
- Female bats usually have only one baby a year, so properties do not become 'infested'. Female bats also take a few years to become sexually mature so will not have a baby straight away.
- Most bats are seasonal visitors to buildings, they are unlikely to live in the same building all year round, although they are loyal to their roosts and so usually return to the same roosts year after year.
- Bats are clean and sociable animals and spend many hours grooming themselves.
- You shouldn't handle bats with bare hands, the rabies risk from UK bats is extremely small. Rabies is transmitted through a bite or a scratch from an infected bat. It is not spread through urine or faeces. Therefore you are at no risk if you do not handle bats and if you must handle an injured bat, wear gloves.
This advice provided by the National Bat Helpline is only possible thanks to the generosity of people like you. Our vital advice service helps thousands of people by providing advice for free, this in turn saves thousands of bats every year. Partial funding from Natural England helps cover some of our running costs, but it does not cover everything. Your donation will help ensure our small team can continue to provide assistance and a lifeline for bats.