Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The night the bats invaded

I think I alluded to this story when it happened but I haven't been up for posting it till now.  Actually, I wasn't even ready to download the pictures of "Mr. Bat," as he's come to be known.  I couldn't bear to look at them.  But I was feeling brave last week (actually the memory card in my camera was full) so I downloaded the photos and am now ready to tell the story.

Late one night as I was going to bed, out of the corner of my eye, I saw something flutter by.  My first thought was that it was a moth.  But it was WAY too big to be a moth.  It dawned on me then what it had to be:  a bat.  Brave woman that I am,  I screamed at the top of my lungs, gathered up my sleeping daughter (who was in my bed since Roger was, as usual, out of town), and ran out of the room.  I raced up to Kate's room, deposited her on her bed, slammed the door, then started to gather my wits.  I knew I had to go out there.  I had to find the bat and get it out of the house.  

So, after a quick stop in the bathroom for a shower cap (you know what they say about bats getting tangled in your hair.  A myth?  Maybe, but I wasn't taking any chances), I made my way downstairs.  And then it (or was it them?  It seemed like a flock!) flapped right by my head.  I screamed again and ran back up to the room.  Gathered my courage, stepped back out, it flapped by me, I retreated to the bedroom, screaming.  Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I finally got it together enough to venture out again.  I made my way slowly down the stairs.  It flapped by my head again and flew into the living/dining room.  Quickly I shut the doors.  It was trapped.  But, of course, it couldn't get out of the house that way.  So I plucked up my courage again, raced into the living room, slamming the door behind me, opened the sliding glass door to the outside, dashed back into the safety of the hallway, and waited for it to leave.  But it didn't.  It was so disoriented (or, as I imagined, out for my blood) that it wouldn't fly outside.  It just did circles around my living room.  

At a loss for what to do, I glanced out my window and saw my neighbor -- whom I'd actually never met but saw around on a regular basis -- and so I raced outside, yelling in my terrible French, "Excuse me, could you please help me?  There's a bat in my house!!"  He was kind enough to take pity on the hysterical woman in her bathrobe, came in and chased the bat around the living room with a pillow for 20 minutes.  The stupid thing would NOT leave!  Finally, he said he thought it was gone but he wasn't sure.  

I decided to call it a night and try to get some sleep.  So I went back up to Kate's room and tried to go to bed.  But, naturally, 10 minutes later I really needed to use the bathroom.  I tried to ignore it and go to sleep but it didn't work.  So I cautiously ventured out.  And right there, sitting on the floor right in front of the bedroom door, was a BAT!!  Again, I screamed and ran back into the room.

So this meant that either a) the bat had escaped the living room; or b) there was another bat in the house.  Hoping beyond hope it was option a, I went downstairs to check.  Nope, there was bat number 1 still flapping around my living room.  So where was bat number two??  I plucked up my courage, and set off to search the house.    I looked everywhere from the ground floor to the attic, looking under beds with flashlights, behind curtains, picture frames, furniture.  No bat.  At a loss, I called my brother who gave me some good bat hunting tips but then advised me to go to sleep and look again in the morning.  "If you're worried," he said, "go to bed with a rolled-up towel stuffed under the door, because you know they can slip in through holes the size of a quarter, right?"  No, I did not know that.  Thanks a lot, Sean.

So, taking my brother's advice, I tried to go to sleep.  Not much luck, but I was feeling significantly braver once the sun came up.  I searched the house in the morning again but saw no sign of either bat.  Where could they have gone??  The second bat was nowhere to be found, nor was the one in the living room.  In the U.S., I would've known who to call, but here?  Not a clue.  Roger was gone for the whole week and there wasn't anyone I could think of to come and de-bat my house.  So I called our relocation company.  They handled everything else for us, so why not a bat invasion?  They were stumped but told me they'd get back to me.  A few minutes later, they called back and told me that basically, I was on my own.  Bats, apparently, are protected here in Luxembourg, so you can't call an exterminator as you would for mice or rats.  There was one guy, a biologist, who could come and remove the bats, but he was on holiday.  For two weeks.  So the relocation company wasn't very helpful at solving the bat situation, but they were able to book us into a very nice hotel for the next night. :)  There was no way I was up for another night of bat-chasing.  Not on 30 minutes of fitful sleep...

The kids and I had a playdate scheduled that morning, so off we went.  I, for one, was relieved to be out of the house. I related the story to my friend who -- very generously -- volunteered her husband to come over and search the house for us.  I leapt at the offer.  So the kids and I went home and waited for him to arrive.  As we walked in the door, there was bat #1 flapping around the living room.  I cowered in the kitchen while the kids watched, transfixed, with their noses pressed up against the sliding glass door as the bat flew around the living room.  Fortunately, our friends arrived just then -- my friend, her husband, Bryce, and their two kids.  As I once again cowered in the kitchen, everyone watched as Bryce slipped into the room with the bat.  He snuck up on the bat, who was at this point, exhausted, and slipped Kate's princess hat box over it.  He then slid a plastic cutting board under the box, trapping the bat.

Here's the bat on the living room floor.  Note:  Don't be fooled by how little it looks.  It was MUCH bigger when it was flapping around my head in the middle of the night.

The bat was then taken outside and released on the deck.  The poor little thing was so exhausted and dehydrated, he just sat there, lapping up rain water:

He sat there for a long time, not moving, and I started to worry he might be sick.  Bats do carry rabies, you know, and he'd been flapping around the room with my defenseless, sleeping daughter.  So, I called the pediatrician, just to see if I should be concerned.  She connected me with the local center for infectious diseases, who advised me that it was unlikely we had reason to be worried, but if it would make me feel better, I could take the bat to a local animal rescue center where they would observe it for 10 days to make sure it was healthy.

At this point, the bat was not looking too good*:

Not that bats ever look "good" in my mind, but you know what I mean.  By this point, our very brave and helpful friends had left, so if I was going to take the bat in, it was up to me.  Once again, drawing up my courage, I slipped out there, slapped the basket of my salad spinner over the bat, then slid the plastic cutting board underneath it.  The bat was trapped.  My sweet children were concerned it was hungry, so they gathered up dead bugs and slipped them into the basket with the bat.   Of course, we couldn't transport the bat this way to the animal rescue center -- about a 20 minute drive from the house -- so we came up with this:

The bungee cords were my idea.  Will was delighted that the box said "hats" and I had to talk him out of changing the "h" to a "b."  So then we all got in the car and had a very tense drive to the animal rescue center, with me convinced that every bump would liberate the bat so he could once again flap around our heads.  Fortunately, we made it there without incident and handed the bat over.  Phew.

Since Bryce's exhaustive search of our house hadn't turned up bat #2, and for all I knew, we had a whole colony roosting in the attic just waiting till nightfall to invade, we decided to spend the night in a hotel.  In fact, we didn't come back until Roger came home at the end of the week.  Call me a coward, but I can't handle bats.  No way.  I called the landlady who was shocked by the incident and, to my relief, informed me that this was not a regular occurrence.  She found a bat expert to come out and check the house to make sure we didn't have a colony living with us.  Fortunately, he found no signs of this and told me he that it was most likely a fluke.  He found one possible entry point, which we promptly plugged up.  I hesitate to even write this, but we haven't had any visitors since.

I have to say, even two months later, that I am not over this little incident.  I seriously think I'm suffering from post-traumatic bat syndrome.  Every night for two weeks I made Roger search the house for bats with a flashlight.  Occasionally, he had to search multiple times per night.  At one point, I was convinced bat #2 was living in our box spring.  I woke up more than once from a vivid dream convinced that a bat had just brushed by my face.  I still say a little prayer every time I walk up the stairs to kiss my children good night that there are no bats in the house.  Why do they scare me so much?  I don't know.  They're harmless (except for the remote possibility of rabies).  They eat their body weight in insects every night.  They don't actually get tangled in your hair.  They're good for the environment!  They're fabulous little creatures.  Fine, but NOT when they're in my house.

And bat #2?  We never saw him again.  Where he went, I have no idea.  I just hope he came out the way he came in and informed all his little bat friends that this house was NOT a good place to live. 

* I cannot take credit for these photos.  As the bat-trapping was going on, I was once again cowering in the kitchen.  My very brave friend, Katy, took those pictures.


  1. Glad you've lived to tell :) I'm going to do a little difference about window (lack of screens!!) and would love to link to this post if it's okay with you?

    Found your blog months ago and have been stalking you ever since. ha.

  2. Link away! I will never understand the lack of screens in a country so full of bugs (and bats).

  3. Next time call me! I've removed bats before. I'm not afraid, and I won't hurt them either.

  4. You're so brave. If this happen to me I would die!. Be careful and safe!!!

  5. @Expatresse: that is a very kind offer and if it ever happens again I will take you up on it. Let's just hope I never have to!

    @Genny: Trust me, I was far from brave--far, far from it. I heard about your snake incident. That would've absolutely terrified me too!

  6. Hi I'm sorry I'm not tech savvy enough to to post this with a profile so it will have to be anonymous, except I can tell you my name is Aoibhe and I live here in Lux too (hey, maybe we have met?). Just had to share on the bat story, I'm sorry it freaked you out so much. I'm not bat phobic but wouldn't be mad keen on having one flying around inside the house, simply because it is distressing for them and you just want them to be out back in the night sky swooping around and hoovering up bugs rather than flapping manically around your ceiling. One flew into my bedroom late at night last summer. The window had been open without the shutters down. So I just turned off all lights in the house, closed the bedroom door and opened both parts of the window fully to the night so that he could escape back out again once he reorientated himself to the fact that it was brighter outside (moonlight in a not quite fully dark midsummer sky) and that his food source would be out there in the light, as opposed to my darker room. He (she?) was flapping in circles around my ceiling light and as long as the light was off showed no interest in coming near me so I just tucked myself down under the duvet and waited for him to find his own way out - which he duly did : )

  7. Thanks for your comment. I hope that I will be braver next time this happens. Well, in all honesty, I hope it never happens again. But if it does, I will be much calmer!