LAKELAND, Fla. (WFLA) — Tampa Bay property owners have just one week left to rid their buildings of bats before maternity season begins.

“If you miss the deadline which is April 15, you have to wait until Aug. 15. That’s a long time away to have to live with bats that are in your attic making a mess,” said Dustin Hooper with All Creatures Wildlife Control.

Florida’s 13 native bat species typically roost in trees, caves or other natural spaces but also find their ways into man-made structures, according to the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).

Bats are beneficial as pollinators, fertilizers and for insect control, the agency said.

Hooper said he has been receiving more calls than ever about bat infestations in Lakeland.

“There are several complexes that have bats, infested with them. The one that I’m working on now, I came across the first three buildings, there were six active bat colonies. That’s a lot,” he said.

Hooper said one of the colonies had 1,000 bats.

Bats can enter through spaces as small as ⅜ of an inch.

Florida law only allows one way to remove bats from buildings. It’s called the “exclusion” method.

“One-way exit devices are installed to allow bats to leave the structure but not re-enter. Finally, all potential bat entry points are permanently sealed to prevent re-entry by bats,” the FWC said.

Exclusions are not allowed during bat maternity season, which is April 15 through Aug. 15.

Hooper argues professionals should be able to safely capture and relocate bats to the wild.

“With the law that we have, all you’re allowed to do is hang netting or a valve system where the bats can come out, they can’t get back in. What are they gonna do? They’re gonna go to the other side of the building, to the neighbor’s house. And every spot they go to, they contaminate it,” said Hooper. “It’s a never-ending ridiculous process.”

Exclusion is the only legal and appropriate method to remove colonies of bats, FWC spokesperson Lisa Thompson wrote in a statement.

“Common pest control methods, such as relocations, are illegal and ineffective techniques to remove bats. Relocations would reduce the bats’ chances for survival and bats are most likely to return to the general area they were initially. Exclusion is the only legal and appropriate method to remove colonies of bats from your home or building,” she said.

Removal of a single bat is allowed all times of the year.