How many bats flying around in the house are too many? Most people would say one bat in the house is too many and I agree. When we have a bat in the house, we shift into action like a well-oiled machine. It took practice and a perspective that “it’s only one?”
Bats are good for wine country. They are good for the ecological balance. They only come out at night so we really don’t see them much. The gardeners tell me a bat can eat about a billion mosquitoes in one night. So we rarely see them and they eat mosquitoes — sounds like a perfect combination. But when just one bat is flying around in the house, that perfect combination turns into an emergency situation.
The family’s relationship with bats has grown to become symbiotic. In the early days of resurrecting our old home we saw bats every night because the house was infested with thousands of them. The house was one big bat haven and every time the bats flew out of their hiding spots and went from room to room, we screamed and ran outside. The bats flew, we ran. You haven’t lived until you see 10 bats flying around in your bedroom at night. A bat looks tiny outside when it is darting around the lights, but that same bat is huge when flying over the bed at midnight. Many were the bottles of wine that were opened to celebrate a bat escape.
Over time, we gently moved the bats outside where they happily fed on those mosquitoes. But occasionally, a bat will still make a personal appearance inside and it is no big deal.
It’s not that we are accustomed to bats inside the house; it’s just that there have been so many over the years that the appearance of one does not cause hysteria. A bat in the house now is a signal for a routine response — me.
The routine protocol goes like this: We close all the doors in the room where the bat is located. One door to the outside stays open. We hope the bat will be smart enough to fly through the one open door but they rarely do. So I put on a baseball hat and my eyeglasses and, armed with a tennis racket and a fishing net, I duel with the bat so that it departs the house healthy and unscathed. I imagine I look like a character out of “Ghostbusters,” and private photographs confirm that notion. Trying to catch a bat is like trying to hit a knuckle ball. It dodges around and no one knows exactly where it will go. There is an agreement in the family that I am never ever to be filmed while engaged with a bat. The routine almost always works and the bat flies through the door after lots of coaxing.
Last week a bat decided to wake up and fly around the den. No worries, we know how to handle it. But this time before I could don my outfit the bat disappeared. We knew he was still around but he was not to be found.
The bat turned up the next day but it wasn’t flying around. The bat was hanging around in the sink in the bathroom when an unsuspecting guest went to wash her hands. What ensued reminded us of the early days when the words hysteria and bats were redundant. Once again, the bat was corralled and released to happier places. Like the bat, we may never see our guest who encountered the bat again.
The bats are gone for another day. How many bats are too many flying around in the house? After all these years, the answer is still one.
Richard Moran is a longtime Star columnist who loves nature, especially when it is outside.