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 and are part of large project looking to find solutions and trialing the use of novel mitigation works.

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 78% of pre-reformation churches across England have bat roosts. At least 12 species are known to roost in churches, with 3 species on average sharing one church between them.

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 shelves to collect droppings under a bat roost or a bat access point can reduce the impact or ease the burden of cleaning. For advice on cleaning, you can download the free Bats In Churches Cleaning Guidelines leaflet.

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 National Bat Helpline can provide free advice on behalf of Natural England to churches in England. Churches in England may be eligible for a visit from a trained volunteer who can give 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 accommodate 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.

Further resources

For more information about the support available and further resources, click here.

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.

Next: Help and advice for churches with bats