Solutions to bat issues in churches
Sharing your place of worship with bats can be challenging, but with the right support and by working together practical solutions can often be found even to the trickiest of problems. Some churches have found positive ways to use their bats for education.
In this section, some frequently asked questions are answered. You can read about real case studies of churches that have found solutions to challenges posed by bats.
The Bat Conservation Trust is committed to helping churches that have bats. Read about our Bats, churches and communities project here. On-going research is looking at how to prevent damage to historic fabric caused by bat droppings and urine. Researchers are also studying bat roosting ecology in churches and investigating ways in which bat colonies can be better managed within these buildings to reduce the impact of bats on people and at the same time conserve bats.
Frequently asked questions
Why can't I get rid of bats in my church?
Bats and their roosts are all protected by law because their numbers have declined so dramatically during the past century. There is provision in the law for churches to do building and development work that may disturb bats, through a licensing scheme. However, by considering bats from the outset and making sure any building work takes bats into account, it is possible to avoid disturbing the bats at all.
Churches are playing a vital role in helping to protect our native bats and we hope this tradition will continue long into the future.
Bats are part of our natural heritage, for hundreds of years they have found sanctuary in our churches. Over 60% of pre-16th century churches have bat roosts. At least 8 species roost in churches.
Bats are long-lived and loyal to roost sites, disruption to roost sites may have severe impacts on populations and once our wildlife is gone, it’s gone forever. We need to work together to find solutions.
What can I do about bat droppings in my church?
Cleaning of churches with large bat roosts can be demanding over the summer months when bats are most active. In some areas volunteers have been drawn from the congregation and local bat groups to sweep up droppings, the droppings make good fertiliser so the volunteers often take it home or donate it to the churchyard.
In some instances, covering artefacts or installing purpose-built shelfs to collect droppings under a bat roost or a bat access point can reduce the impact or ease the burden of cleaning.
In St Nicholas of Nether Winchendon in the Diocese of Oxford Bat group volunteers go in and deep clean the church at the end of each summer when the maternity roost of about 150 Natterer’s bats leaves.
Why do churches have to foot the bill for bat conservation?
We all want to make it as simple as possible for churches to live with their bats. The Natural England/Bat Conservation Trust Bat Helpline 0345 1300 228 service is free of charge and provides help and advice to churches.
In England churches can access a visit from a trained volunteer to give them further advice and support. In some cases local bat group volunteers will also provide free help and support to churches with bats.
However, in some cases where churches want to do building work and all other avenues to avoid disturbing bats or damaging/destroying their roosts have failed, there may be costs involved from employing and professional ecological consultant and measure to accomodate bats. But by considering bats from the outset, costs can be kept to a minimum and provision for bats be incorporated more easily in the plans.
Bats for education
Learning more about bats and using them to educate younger members of the congregation about wildlife is rewarding. Some churches hold bat walks, others take part in the National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) and carry out an annual count of bats as they emerge from their roost. Many churchyards offer valuable habitat for many threatened species of plants and animals. Caring for God’s Acre promotes churchyards for their importance to people and wildlife.