Did you know that in Gainesville on the UF campus are the World’s Largest Occupied Bat Houses? The University of Florida Bat Barns and Bat House are located near Lake Alice on the UF Campus! There are between 450,000 and 500,000 bats that live in the UF Bat Houses, the most common being the Brazilian free-tailed bat.
There’s nothing quite like watching the skies darken with bats while the sun sets. Read on to learn more about the history of the UF Bat Houses and how you can experience an authentic and eerie Florida experience!
History of the UF Bat House and Bat Barn
In 1987, a fire destroyed Johnson Hall on the UF campus. This was home to a colony of bats who lived in the attic. The bats became homeless and occupied the bleachers of the James G. Pressly Stadium and the Scott Linder Tennis Stadium. Unfortunately, the odor and stains so close to the spectators became an issue, and UF decided they needed a home for the bats where they were at an undisturbed and safe distance from humans.
In 1991, thousands of bats were captured from the stadiums and moved to the newly constructed UF Bat House. Unfortunately, the following evening the bats all left to find another place to live, leaving the Bat House vacant for over three years.
However, in 1995 bats moved into the house permanently, and their colony began to grow! In 2009 the structure of the house became so heavy from all of the bats, that it collapsed from the weight. In 2010, the Bat Barn was built to replace the original damaged Bat House. Today, the Bat House and Bat Barn are home to 450,000 to 500,000 bats. The original Bat House is set to be removed at a later date.
Best Times to See the Bats
You can usually see the bats in the 15-20 minutes after the sunset right before total darkness. It also helps if it is a calm, warm evening over 65 degrees. This makes the perfect trip to the Bat Houses in spring through early summer. The bats will then come out to feed, consuming 2.5 billion insects each night! That’s over 2,500 pounds! They may snack on moths, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and more!
Our favorite place to see the bats fly is to watch the sky to the West on Museum Road and keep an eye on the street lights. If not, the shadows of the trees may obscure your great views!
It’s important to note that the bats may swoop near observers due to insects coming out that are attracted to the carbon dioxide in human breath. However, don’t be concerned! If you leave them alone, the bats will not attack or harm observers.
Important Things to Remember
Florida Statutes Chapter 372 protects bats and classifies them as “Non-Game Wildlife” whose habitat can not be disturbed by humans. The UF Bat Houses have a list of activities to avoid while you enjoy your viewing of the bats:
- Please do not throw any objects at the bats or the Bat House or Bat Barn.
- Avoid loud or high-pitched noises. Bats are easily disturbed. Parents, please encourage children to comply.
- Maintain a safe distance from the structures by remaining behind the wooden fence of the observation area.
- Beware of falling urine and guano as bats fly overhead.
- Never pick up a bat on the ground.
Bats and the Environment
Since bats feast on flying insects, they are the primary predator of those bugs. Therefore, bats are a wonderful natural pest control for us in Florida. There are many other organizations in Florida dedicated to the conservation of bats and their impact on the environment:
Don’t live in the Gainesville area? You can check out the live bat cams here! If the bats aren’t very active on the live cam, you can also check out the UF Bat House’s online pre-recorded content here!
Want to create a getaway to Gainesville? Check out: Ten Awesome Things To Do in Gainesville
Featured Image Credit: https://www.facebook.com/UFLBatHouses/photos
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but is subject to change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the companies/organizations mentioned before planning your trip.
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