The University of Florida is home to the largest occupied bat houses in North America. Estimates vary on just how many bats live on campus, from as many as 300,000, to between 100,000 to 200,000, but what is certain is that there are more bats on campus than you will see anywhere else.
We went to check it out for ourselves.
On a warm October evening, about twenty minutes after the sunset, the bats flew out in massive waves. They made their path right above the heads of many of the people watching, which for the unprepared can be quite unnerving.
Bring an umbrella or be a victim of falling urine or even worse, guano.
The most common species of bats in the UF Bat Houses are the Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis), the Southeastern bat (Myotis austroriparius), and the Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis).
Every evening, the bats go exploring the night sky, and consume an incredible amount of insects (estimates range from 2.5 billion insects in one night, to about 1,000 pounds of insects in a feeding). This may explain all of the guano.
Bats have been a tradition on UF’s campus for decades.
The first bat house was built in 1991 on the north side of Museum Road on UF’s campus across from Lake Alice. Prior to that, many of the bats made their home in the tennis and track stadiums on campus which lead to a lot of complaints about the smell of bat guano. The odor and stains, along with the disturbance to fans, led the University Athletic Association to decide the bats needed a new home and the first bat house was built. But it took a few years for the bats to fully occupy their new home.
In 2009, the original Bat house collapsed from bat weight and guano build-up killing roughly one-hundred bats. Although it still stands on campus after being rebuilt in 2010, it is expected to be demolished in the near future. A third house (far left in photo) was built after the decision to tear down the original. Officials are just waiting on the animals to transfer to the new house.
Across the street from the Bat Houses is Lake Alice where visitors can try and catch a glimpse of gators and turtles swimming around or feeding at night.
Behind the bat houses there is a beautiful Botany Teaching garden with a peaceful trail to follow.
The best time to see the UF Bat Houses is between late March and late October when the bats give quite a show with the late sunset. Like many Floridians, the bats are do not like cold weather, and when the temperature is below 65-degrees, they don’t like to leave their houses.
The UF Bat Houses makes for a wonderful family environment. Just don’t forget that umbrella!
The Florida Museum advises visitors to take a few precautions when visiting the UF Bat Houses.
- Please do not throw any objects at the bats or the Bat Houses or Bat barns.
- Please avoid making loud or high-pitched noises, as the bats are easily disturbed.
- Maintain a safe distance from the structures by remaining behind the wooden fence at the observation area.
- Beware of falling urine or guano.
- Never pick a bat up off the ground.