Bats in Florida: What you need to know as bat maternity season begins

April 15 is Tax Day, but in Florida, it's also the official start of bat maternity season and is the last day you can legally get rid of bats that are living in your home or building until the summer.

Bats are protected year-round in Florida, which means it is illegal to harm or kill them, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. However, between August 15 and April 15, people can use non-lethal ways to discourage bats from building nests inside their homes.

After April 15, you're not allowed to block bats from accessing their nest without a special permit, the FWC said.

And it's not difficult for a bat to find a spot in your home. Turns out, they do not need a lot of space to get in. A crack or crevice is more than enough space.

"All a bat needs is the end of your thumb. If you can fit your finger through that, the end of your thumb through that, a bat can also fit in there too," said Jayne Johnston, senior wildlife assistance biologist with FWC.

How do you know if you have bats living in your house?

Johnson said there are some obvious signs:

  • Staining on the walls
  • Bat droppings
  • Physically seeing bats fly in and out of your home
  • You may even be able to hear them "chirp"

"When the bats are coming in and out of those areas, they're usually staining the walls with their body oils as they come in and out," she said.

Bats will also find places to live outside the home, including a shed, in a patio umbrella, or in a palm tree. 

While bats may appear in some scary films, they're actually really good for the environment, according to the FWC. They help control pests and insect populations, help pollinate plants and spread seeds, and their waste can be used as fertilizer, the FWC.

There is also a stigma that bats have rabies. Some do, but Johnston said it's a small population that does.

"If you end up with a colony of bats, not all of them have rabies. The potential for even one having rabies tends to be pretty small," she said.

How can you help bats?

The FWC has four ways people can help support bat populations in Florida:

  • Preserve natural roost sites, including trees
  • Leave dead fronds on palm trees. They can act as roosting spots
  • Install a bat house at your home
  • Report sick or dead bats, as well as unusual behavior to the FWC