There's a bat in our belfry... maybe
February 25, 2010
There’s something living in our attic, and it’s definitely not human. We haven’t seen it yet, but it has been raising a ruckus at night, skittering across beams and thumping against walls. We began hearing it about three weeks ago and assumed it was a rat; we’d had a couple up there before, but this is different. We put up with its antics, speculating as to what it was, for nearly two weeks before Roni called in the “exterminator.” (That’s wifey shorthand for, “Honey, crawl up in the attic and set some traps.”)
Not knowing whether the phantom menace was a mouse or a rat, we stocked up on mouse and rat traps from WinCo. Anything with the capability of thumping an attic wall loudly enough to be heard likely would be too large for a simple mouse trap, but we had our hopes. We baited them with chunks of cheddar cheese, then Glenn ascended the ladder into our dark and dusty attic on Valentine’s Day. How romantic.
He spread the three traps around, making sure to put the rat trap in a prominent location atop a ventilation duct. Any rodent worth its name would eventually be drawn to the cheese and we wanted to be able to find its mangled body before the ants did. With the traps in place, we waited. It wasn’t long before we heard a thump above the living room. We looked at each other, thinking it couldn’t be this easy.
The next morning, Glenn returned to the attic with a plastic grocery bag, expecting to use it to cart the deceased critter off to the garbage can. What he found instead was the bait missing from one of the mouse traps, the second mouse trap snapped shut with the bait still inside, and the rat trap stripped of its cheese cube but still set. Although none of the traps caught a critter, the rat trap did manage to catch Glenn’s thumb as he re-baited it.
The second day’s trapping effort was equally unsuccessful. This time the cheese was missing from both the mouse traps, and the rat trap had been toppled from the ventilation duct with its partially eaten cheese chunk sitting a few inches away. Clearly this was no ordinary mouse… or rat… or whatever.
It has been said that in order to catch a better mouse one needs to build a better mousetrap. In our case, we thought perhaps changing the bait to something less easily stolen might be more successful. We swapped the cheese for peanut butter, slathering it all over the rat trap’s trip plate. Several sites online had suggested that rats love peanut butter, and since when has the Internet ever offered bad advice? Perhaps some do love peanut butter, but ours apparently didn’t; the bait was untouched.
On Day 4 we nixed the peanut butter and returned to cheese, this time lashing it to the trip plate of the rat trap like the heroine in a melodrama being bound to the railroad tracks. We wrapped it up in rubber bands so there was NO WAY it could be removed without the trap snapping shut. Jaws of doom.
But the bait sat untouched three days later, and the thumping and skittering in the attic hadn’t let up. Had the rat gorged itself full on our earlier cheese offerings that it no longer needed to risk its life foraging? Then one night Glenn heard rapid skittering through the attic followed by what sounded like wings, flying away from the house. A bird, perhaps? Or a bat…
Bats aren’t uncommon in our area, but we’d never had one in our home before and weren’t all too sure what they sound like trapped in the attic. It was time to go back to the Internet for more research. Incredibly there is quite a bit of information about them online, and there must be a particularly bad problem with them in Massachusetts as there were several pest control experts there offering advice for how to detect and remove them. What we’d at first thought were rat dropping very likely was bat guano. Some places consider this a prized fertilizer and sell it by the bag. In one’s home, however, the accumulation of bat guano is… let’s just say undesirable.
One of the indicators to look for if you think a bat has invaded your home is the presence of brown or black stains on the ceiling, the websites advised. Hmmmm. We’d noticed a stain over our dining room a few months back that Roni at first feared might be a leak in the roof. Glenn thought it was an old food stain from years ago when Ben had a habit of throwing his dirty dinner dishes across the room to the kitchen sink. (He doesn’t do that anymore. Well, most of the time.) Now, armed with our new knowledge, we entertained the possibility that a bat if indeed it was a bat had taken up residence in the attic above our dining room. It made perfect sense. That part of the attic is toward the back of the house, farthest removed from the light coming in through the two front windows.
We purchased a cheap flashlight at Raley’s and sent Glenn up the ladder again on Feb. 20 with the goal to shine the beam on every dark corner where a bat might hide. “I’ve seen horror movies that start this way,” he said. Nonetheless, he checked as many locations as he could fit, including the spot where we’d noticed the ceiling stain. But because the area was covered in very dusty insulation and the roof narrowed at that point, he didn’t get to shine the beam behind the ventilation duct there. If something is living there, it’s well concealed. Throughout the rest of the attic not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
We got a bit of rain this week, and perhaps not coincidently the critter became more active. At 8:15 Wednesday morning we were greeted with a horrible shrieking noise coming from one of the walls between our living room and bedroom. Whatever it was was wounded or in great distress. Glenn once again ascended the ladder to the attic (which was no mean feat for him that time of day) expecting to find a rat… or perhaps a bat… caught in one of the traps. Somehow it must have managed to drag the trap with it to the opposite side of the ceiling.
But the traps hadn’t been touched in days, except for a missing piece of what by now had to be leathery cheese. Glenn zeroed in on the source of the continued shrieking, but he could get no closer than a few feet away due to the slope of the roof. Not wanting to put his foot through the living room ceiling he gave up the chase, and we hoped that the critter wouldn’t simply die in our wall. But by evening it had somehow freed itself and was scampering about the attic once more, much to Roni’s chagrin.
The attic noises persist and we’re about ready to implement Plan B. If anyone has any ideas for a Plan B, we’d really like to hear them!
It’s a shame that February is such a short month because it’s one of the most beautiful times of the year along the Delta. If the rain lets up long enough, you can actually take a walk and see some pre-spring color up close.
We got our annual blossom walk in on Presidents Day. We stuck to the former DuPont rail yard this year rather than take the more ambitious treks we’ve made in years past, mainly so as not to tire Glenn out as he continues to recover from his illness. The blossoms were just nearing their peak and the day was crystal clear, which made for some good photos. Ben brought along his Nintendo DSi and used its camera function to take some of his own images. We’ll make a photographer of him yet.
And speaking of Ben, he recently signed up for driver education, which makes the rest of us feel old. Fortunately the class doesn’t start until late spring, so we still have a few months to arrange the second mortgage on our home to pay for car insurance and map out the safest sidewalks to stand on. Ben actually was reluctant to take driver ed, but we think he’ll come around once he realizes that all his friends are signing up and that you pretty much need a car to do anything in your adult life.