We Built a Bat House

April 15, 2016

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Thanks to brute strength and a ton of help from our friends at Lubee Bat Conservancy, the Bat Cave at The Wetlands has been erected. We will soon begin enjoying the sights and sounds of 300-400 Mexican free-tailed bats along with their all natural mosquito and bug control.
Although it can take a little while for the bats to call the new house their home, we have been working with the folks from Lubee over the last few months to ensure that we have all of the right variables to house the bats that are here in our area.
They even came out and took sound samples to analyze and determine exactly which species have been hanging around. So. Cool.

Here is a very in depth article on our project, written by Brian Pope from Lubee Bat Conservancy. Enjoy!

Bats at the Wetlands

When the folks from Swamp Head Brewery contacted our staff at Lubee Bat Conservancy (LBC) about the possibility of erecting a bat house at the Wetlands, we were more than happy to start working on this project. As longtime fans of Swamp Head, their staff, and of course, the beer, it was a perfect fit for our organization.

The first step was to determine if bats were on property, and if these particular species are known to live in bat houses. Gainesville is home to 9 bat species which can be split into two groups – tree roosting bats which are typically solitary, and colonial bats that roost in structures (caves, bat houses, mines, buildings, etc). The primary species we were hoping to find was the Mexican Free-tailed bat, which is by far the most common species found in Alachua County that consistently roosts in bat houses throughout the SE. Over 400,000 Mexican Free-tailed bats live at the Bat House and Bat Barn on UF campus across from Lake Alice.

In late December, acoustic surveys were conducted on two separate evenings at Swamp Head. Echolocation calls were recorded and analyzed to determine which species are in the area. After sifting through the data, it was determined that Mexican free-tailed bats were not only on property, but in fairly large numbers. The next phase was to determine what type of house to construct. Typically, larger houses with multiple chambers are more successful as bats can move vertically to find preferred roosting temperatures. We ultimately decided on a 4 chamber house which can hold between 300-400 bats. Construction took place at Lubee and the house was finally installed on Wednesday, Apr 30. The house is made of cedar and mounted on two 20’ cypress poles (each weighing over 300lbs). These woods were chosen due to their natural resistance to the elements. The cypress posts are secured to two 10’ pressure treated posts, sunk 4’ into the ground and secured with 500lbs of concrete (we want to make sure this house won’t be going anywhere anytime soon). Of course, bats are very particular when it comes to their homes, and successful houses follow a certain set of rules. In FL, bats prefer houses that face southeast, are mounted on the sides of buildings or poles 15-20’ in the air, painted a medium brown color, located near a water source, and in open areas approximately 20’ from a forest edge. It may take awhile for bats to take up residency, but we have confidence since all requirements for a successful house have been meticulously met. Studies conducted from 1998- 2001 on 735 bat houses throughout the US, revealed that time until first occupancy varies from a few weeks to years. However, almost half of houses studied had bats within the first 1-6 months.

So, why put a bat house up in the first place?? Well, outside of just being unique, interesting mammals, bats are the primary predator of night-flying insects, including many agricultural pests. Their diets include moths, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, leafhoppers, winged ants and many other pests. One bat can eat up to 3,000 insects in a night, including hundreds of mosquitoes per hour! FL bats prefer to roost in mature trees, dead trees (snags), or in caves.

However, many bats take up residence in buildings, or other manmade structures, due to loss of habitat. Bat houses provide alternative roost sites for Florida’s colonial bat species. A bat house in your backyard will offer local bats a much needed place to live and provide mosquito and pest control free of charge. For more information on bat houses, please email LBC [email protected]

Lubee Bat Conservancy is an international non-profit organization dedicated to saving bats and their habitats through research, conservation, and education, with a focus on children and community engagement. LBC is an Association of Zoos and Aquariums Certified Related Facility. Located on 110 acres of beautiful old FL country in Gainesville, LBC houses the largest and most diverse collection of fruit bats in the world. Over 200 bats representing 10 species reside at LBC, including the Malayan Flying Fox which can attain a wingspan of 6’!

Since 1989, LBC has funded and conducted field projects in 19 countries spanning Florida to the Solomon Islands.  Our education programs reach over 16,000 people in north central Florida, including 5,600 attendees at our annual Bat Festival held in October.  Educational programs are offered to everyone, and we proudly partner with veterans’ groups and organizations focused on disadvantaged, special needs, and underserved children, to offer free educational tours of the facility. Local partners include Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boys and Girls Club, Gainesville Police Department’s Children’s Camp, A Girls Place, and Gigi’s Playhouse. For more information please visit www.lubee.org or call 352-485-1250.

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