By Charley Bird (Severn Wildlife Rescue)
In November 2020, our Wildlife Rescue Co-ordinator (Ruth) alerted us to a call that had come in about a bat that had become stuck to flypaper. The finders had found a fly infestation in their loft and had hung up long sticky strips of flypaper in an attempt to rid themselves of the insects.
Having gone into their loft to check on progress, they discovered a bat had become stuck on one of the strips…
Once delivered to us, I was able to identify that bat as a female brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus). After letting the finder know this, he informed me that he lived in a semi-detached house, with a roost of these bats inhabiting the neighbouring loft.
The bat appeared to have squeezed herself through a small hole separating the lofts, presumably in an attempt to feed on the flies infesting the finder’s attic!
We had requested that the finders did not remove the bat from the flypaper themselves. Removing bats from flypaper without causing damage is an extremely delicate process which should only be undertaken by trained individuals with the necessary knowledge and equipment available to them.
Luckily, this bat had gotten away with only a few small holes in her wing membranes and minor tearing along the bottom of her left wing.
We named the little bat “Willow”.
Nai and I began the long process of removing the flypaper glue from Willow’s body right away. This involved skilled handling, a lot of environmentally friendly soapy water, oil and other specialist equipment.
We also orally administered a solution to prevent insecticide poisoning, should this have been present on the flypaper.
To prevent Willow developing a chill, we carried out semi-regular washing and drying over the next three days, and eventually, she began to look like a normal bat again. During her time with us she maintained a healthy appetite and a cheeky character.
Brown long-eared bats are especially charismatic bats and when they go to sleep they tuck their ears under their wings!
They also communicate with their ears. When they are particular relaxed their ears will be relaxed and facing downwards, but when they are alert, hunting or even a little stressed their ears will be erect.
Willow is currently undergoing the over-wintering process with Ellie, soon to be flight-trained and released in Spring 2021!
We kindly ask everyone to find alternative fly-control methods to flypaper.
It is a particular danger to brown long-eared bats, who catch larger prey by “gleaning” them off of surfaces such as leaves. When these bats see moths and flies stuck on flypaper, they attempt to glean them and eat them and end up getting stuck themselves.
This is even more perilous if the flypaper contains insecticides, as the bats ingest this through the glue when trying to free themselves and become poisoned as a result.