Welcome to the World’s Largest Occupied Bat Houses. The two University of Florida Bat Barns and Bat House, far right, are located on the north side of Museum Road across from Lake Alice on the UF campus.
The most common species living here is the Brazilian free-tailed bat, Tadarida brasiliensis. The Southeastern bat, Myotis austroriparius, and Evening bat, Nycticeius humeralis, also live in the structures.
About the evening emergence
The bats normally emerge during a 15- to 20-minute period after sunset, before total darkness on calm, warm evenings when temperatures are above 65 F. Bats may swoop near those observing the emergence to eat insects attracted to the carbon dioxide in human breath, however they will not attack or harm people when left alone. High winds, heavy rain or cold temperatures will keep the bats in the house for the evening. On warm winter evenings, the bats may come out for a drink of water at the lake and exercise; however they can eat only when bugs are flying.
Maximum viewing opportunities
The best seasons for observing the emergence are spring through early summer, when days are increasing in length. During this time, the bats emerge sooner after sunset while there is a longer period of twilight. To gain the best perspective of the bats’ emergence, watch the western sky over the pine trees and around the street lights on Museum Road. The shadows from the trees north of the house obscure the view of the bats’ emergence.
Important things to remember when observing the bats
Bats are designated by Florida Statutes Chapter 372 as “Non-Game Wildlife” and their habitat must not be molested or disturbed by humans.
- Please do not throw any objects at the bats or the Bat House or Bat Barn.
- Please avoid making loud or high-pitched noises, as the 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.
Estimated population: 450,000-500,000 bats
Capacity of Bat House and Bat Barn: 750,000 bats
Nightly insect consumption: 2.5 billion insects (more than 2,500 pounds)
Types of insects consumed: Moths, beetles, mosquitoes, flies, gnats, leafhoppers, midges, winged ants and many other pests of lawns, shrubs, trees, crops and humans.
The Bat House was built in March 1991 with support from the University Athletic Association. Bats permanently occupied the house in January 1995 and have raised nursery colonies in late Spring each year. The Bat Barn was built in March 2010 and became permanently occupied in August 2011.
When fire destroyed UF’s Johnson Hall in 1987, a colony of bats occupying the attic of the historic building was left homeless and soon inhabited the concrete bleachers of James G. Pressly Stadium at the track and Scott Linder Tennis Stadium on the north side of campus. The odor and stains from urine and guano and the bats’ close proximity to spectators were a nuisance, so the UAA decided to exclude the bats from those facilities and build a structure for them to live undisturbed and at a safe distance from humans. In September 1991, several thousand bats were captured from the stadiums, transported and released in the Bat House. The following evening, the bats emerged and found other places to live, while the Bat House sat vacant for more than three years, leaving UF officials and many citizens in doubt about the success of the relocation project.
But in 1995 the bats moved in permanently, and the colony continued to grow. In 2009, the internal structure of the house collapsed from the weight of the bats and additional roosting modules that were added to the original design. The internal structure of the house was rebuilt and the first Bat Barn added in 2010. The second Bat Barn was completed in February 2017 to replace the original Bat House, which has deteriorated beyond repair. UF plans to remove the original Bat House at a future date.
Bats are wild mammals and do carry rabies, however rabies only occurs in about .5 percent (1 in 200) of the bats in a population. For comparison, rabies in wild raccoons can occur at up to 35 percent (1 in 3.)
Unlike other mammals, rabid bats do not show aggression, but are more likely to be found on the ground, sluggish and easy for children to pick up. Children must be warned to NEVER touch any bat, because bats found on the ground are much more likely to be rabies-positive and may bite in self-defense. Instead, have an adult notify a trained professional with protective gear and pre-exposure rabies vaccinations to handle or remove bats. If a bat must be removed by an untrained adult, use a coffee can with a piece of stiff cardboard. Place the can over the bat and gently slide the cardboard under the can, trapping the bat inside without touching it, or use heavy leather gloves.
For assistance or additional information, contact UF Environmental Health and Safety Pest Management Services, 352-392-1591 or University Police, 352-392-1111.
- Based in Merritt Island, Florida, this nonprofit organization seeks to preserve and protect native bat populations throughout the state. This site includes helpful information on everything from building bat houses to what to do if you find a bat in your home and how to perform a bat exclusion.
- Bat Conservation International’s mission is to conserve the world’s bats and their ecosystems in order to ensure a healthy planet. Based in Austin, Texas, BCI is devoted to conservation, education and research initiatives involving bats and the ecosystems they serve.
- Lubee Bat Conservancy is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to saving fruit bats and their habitats through research, conservation and education. Located in Gainesville, Florida, Lubee houses the largest and most diverse collection of fruit bats in the world. Efforts are focused on working with global conservation partners to protect at-risk bat species. By protecting these bats, Lubee works to conserve more than 145 genera of plants that depend on bats for pollination and seed dispersal, the countless organisms that depend on those plants for food and shelter, and ultimately all people who depend on healthy ecosystems.
- The annual Florida Bat Festival at the Lubee Bat Conservancy offers an opportunity to view giant fruit bats and enjoy the great outdoors while learning about how bats benefit Florida’s environment and ecosystems worldwide.
- The observation area and kiosk was partially funded with a generous donation from George Marks of the Florida Bat Center, Bay Pines, Fla.
- Construction of observation area, benches, fencing and crosswalk by UF Physical Plant Division.
- Construction of Bat House by Bobby Henley Construction Company, funded by University Athletic Association.
- Bat Barn construction by Anglin Construction Co., funded by UAA, Bacardi Corporation and private donations via the Lubee Bat Conservancy.
- Technical support/assistance provided by the Florida Museum of Natural History and UF Environmental Health and Safety Pest Management Services.