Bats droppings form a dusty powder if pressed. This is because they are made of tiny pieces of the hard outer coating of insects, the cuticle. In contrast, mouse droppings, which can look similar, are hard if pressed. You can also confirm if you have bats by watching to see if they emerge from the roost from sunset onwards – bats and mice may have similar droppings – but mice definitely cannot fly!
No. The droppings must be collected from an indoors or sheltered location. If they are exposed to UV light from sunshine, or to rain, they become damaged and we cannot analyse the DNA. This means that bats roosting in dormer roofs, inside soffits/fascia, cavity walls, crevices in stonework and in otherwise inaccessible places cannot be sampled for this project. However, if your bats sometimes use a dry porch or a barn or outbuilding to rest up at night or to fly in around sunset, you may be able to collect droppings there. If the droppings are stuck to an outside wall or windowsill we cannot use them. Please do not register for a sampling pack if this is that case for your bat roost.
Yes, it is safe to enter a bat roost but we do not recommend that you do so often and you should wear a mask when you do. The reason why we think you should not enter the bat roost often is because mothers give birth to one baby during the summer and we do not want to cause undue disturbance to breeding mothers and their young. We recommend mask wearing as a basic biosafety protocol.
Bats have very interesting and different immune systems to ours and they can host viruses while not showing symptoms. The Covid19 coronavirus may have originated in bats in Asia and crossed to humans via another animal host, but there is still no scientific consensus on exactly how it arose. There have been no outbreaks of coronavirus diseases associated with bats in Europe where bats have used buildings to roost for many centuries. Nonetheless, to be extra safe, we are providing masks and gloves for you to use during sample collection. We urge you to use these protective equipment provided while participating in the project.
There is a specific method and sampling pack that we need you to use. All you need to provide is a few sheets of newspaper and ensure that you can safely enter and exit the roost. Once you register you will be sent the sampling pack.
Volunteering for bat activity surveys
Even if you don’t know of any bat roosts where you can sample bat droppings for this project but would like to get involved, Bat Conservation Ireland would welcome your help surveying for Daubenton’s bats along a waterway in August.