New Bat House Research Project

Loss of natural homes in caves and old-growth forests is one of the greatest causes of bat decline worldwide. Unfortunately, many former roosts can never be replaced, leaving an increasingly urgent need for alternative shelter. Wildlife Biologist, Steve Barlow, was one of the first to test the suitability of extra large designs, and he has been experimenting for nearly 20 years. Recently he has supplied his Big Bat House design to nature centers, city parks, wildlife refuges, farmers and private landowners.

Last October, Merlin met with Steve and they agreed to collaborate in developing a new, design that they hope will be even more attractive to bats. Their research proposal was generously funded by MTBC members, Joe and Sharon Goldston, with additional help from Steve. In early April Merlin spent two days with Steve and his construction crew in Kansas brainstorming anticipated improvements.

The result is a new modular design that is much less costly to build and lighter in weight. We also anticipate it’s being even more attractive to bats. It can be mounted on just two instead of four poles, and when a first module fills, more can be added, each one housing up to 4,000 bats. Based on past experience it is quite likely that, at some locations tens of thousands can be attracted, as ability to expand will be unlimited.

In early May, the first modules were installed on three farms in Florida, under Steve’s supervision. Test sites were each surrounded by a different kind of agricultural use in anticipation of a second research phase to investigate the bats’ impact on crop pests. Assuming bat acceptance, this should be a big step.

Two additional modules of the same design will be shipped for testing in Panama, hopefully to be installed by July. The first will be in a lowland rice-growing area, the second in a mountainous nature reserve. We believe all five sites have excellent potential to attract colonies in their first year, but we’ll have to be patient! Merlin’s first extra large roost, built at the University of Florida in Gainesville, took three years to attract bats. However, the colony rapidly grew to roughly 250,000!

 

 

 

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New Bat Housing Partnership

New Bat Housing Partnership
10/22/16

Merlin spent most of yesterday meeting with Steve Barlow of Wildlife Integration, sharing knowledge from their bat house experiences. Steve was a partner in Merlin’s original North American Bat House Research Project, who continued his innovative experiments long after the project ended. He has shown extraordinary creativity in developing and testing new designs, including a new “Community Size Bat House” that has been highly successful in attracting thousands of bats per dwelling. Following an enthusiastic exchange of ideas, they decided to partner in developing and promoting dwellings for bats.

 

Steve Barlow & Merlin Tuttle

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World’s First Artificial Bat Cave

World’s First Artificial Bat Cave Provides Model for Future
By Merlin Tuttle
8/14/2016

 

The chiroptorium covers 3,000 square feet (279 square meters) and offers about 8,000 square feet (743 square meters) of likely roosting surface. A structure of welded-together rebar, coated in heavy plastic, was then sprayed with a foot of gunite to form a permanent shell.

Modern bats face a serious housing shortage. Millions of homeless bats have died when their caves were destroyed or converted to exclusive human use, not to mention when old-growth forests were logged. Often, the single most important action we can take to restore bats today is to provide alternative homes.

We know from long experience that desperate bats often readily occupy human-made structures, from abandoned mines and railroad tunnels to old buildings. Though building backyard bat houses is an excellent way to help, sometimes it is very much in our mutual interest to provide long-lasting structures that can accommodate large numbers, not only for pest control, but also for the pure entertainment large colonies can provide.

Construction crew working in entrance passage. Vertical braces were removed once the gunite hardened.

When J. David Bamberger was first introduced to an evening emergence of the millions of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) at Bracken Cave in the Texas Hill Country, he was awestruck. He fell in love with this wonder of nature and soon began asking if it would be possible to attract a miniature Bracken colony to his ranch. Undaunted by an absence of caves, he asked me about the feasibility of “building” a cave.  Would bats come? (more…)

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Formosan golden bats of Taiwan

Mr. Chang and mascot of the Formosan Golden Bat's Home

Mr. Chang and mascot of the Formosan Golden Bats’ Home

Following 30 hours of travel, we spent our first day recuperating in Taipei, got up early the next morning for a 2.5-hour drive to the Formosan Golden Bats’ Home on the campus of the Sheng-Zheng Elementary School, where we met our host, 43-year-old Heng-Chia Chang. As a teacher, he had noticed beautiful little golden bats (Myotis formosus flavus) roosting in school yard tree foliage. (more…)

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Photographing North America’s Rarest Bat

An endangered Florida bonneted bat, America’s rarest bat, once thought to be extinct.

America’s rarest bat, the endangered Florida bonneted bat (Eumops floridanus), was once relatively common. It often lived in tile roofs of Coral Gables and Miami, and its loud, low-frequency echolocation calls made it easy to detect. The species declined sharply in the 1950’s and early 1960’s, and by the late 1970’s extinction was feared. Then in 1978 woodcutters found a male and seven females in a woodpecker cavity. Soon several more were found living in a backyard bat house.

(more…)

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An Organic Farmer’s Experience with Bat Houses

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View from above prior to roof attachment.  The sealed-in ceiling between the roof and roosting crevices is for enhanced thermal stability.

Nearly 20 years ago, Frank Bibin, a Georgian pecan grower contacted Merlin for advice on attracting bats to help control insect pests in his orchards. He has since gone organic and become an important advocate for building artificial bat roosts.  To learn of his results go to Pebble Hill Grove–About Bats.

Frank’s first small bat houses were put up in 1998. This video, filmed in Frank’s pecan orchard, tells his early story. It took two years to attract the first bats. Thereafter, numbers grew rapidly. Now that local bats are accustomed to using bat houses, new houses are normally occupied within 30-40 days.

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View from entry (bottom), showing 5 newly installed, 3/4″-wide roosting crevices. One of these houses shelters up to 400 bats.

Through years of testing, he has developed many new innovations. His bat houses and mounting accessories are achieving nearly 100 percent occupancy at many locations in the Southeast and are available for purchase at Frank’s website, Pebble Hill Grove–Bat Houses . Parks and nature centers are among his primary customers.  Though there are many suppliers of smaller bat houses, we know of none better than Frank’s when it comes to long-lasting roosts that attract larger numbers of bats. 

How Frank does it… (more…)

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Bat houses help rice farmers in Spain

checking a bat houseWe would like to highlight a recent study of exceptional importance to all who care about conserving bats. As one who has long promoted the potential benefits of attracting bats to artificial roosts, Merlin is especially pleased with the publication of a recent multi-year study documenting the successful attraction of thousands of bats to small, inexpensive bat houses, leading to well documented reduction of rice pests below threshold levels that require use of chemical pesticides.

The study titled, Pest control service provided by bats in Mediterranean rice paddies, appeared in the journal Mammalian Biology and is available for free download at researchgate.net.

A bat house opened to permit checking by researchers

Soprano pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), a common bat widespread across continental Europe, east to western Asia Minor, the Caucasus and Siberia

 

The researchers report that properly located bat houses were readily occupied by soprano pipistrelle bats (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), and that as numbers increased damage from rice borer moths (Chilo supressalis) fell sufficiently to eliminate further need for chemical pesticides. They additionally note that the cost of putting up bat houses was 6-8 times less than that of relying on chemical treatments. These authors also provide an invaluable summary of current knowledge of bat values to agriculture. There are numerous opportunities to expand on this pioneering research which is urgently needed. We deeply appreciate the help of Adrià López-Baucells and Oriol Massana Valeriano in providing outstanding photographic documentation of this project.

Iberian rice field where research was conducted

 

Here’s contact info for ADRIÀ LÓPEZ BAUCELLS
PhD student on Bat Ecology and Conservation

Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute – Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazônia
Lisbon University – cE3c
Museu de Ciències Naturals de Granollers

PERSONAL PAGE
PhD Project Site
Portuguese Research Group Site
Natural Science Museum of Granollers

Tel.: 351 914 413 804

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Merlin’s Book and Bulgaria

After arriving home from South Africa on the 1st of May, Merlin immediately began work revising his manuscript titled Adventures of the Real Bat Man. Intended as a story-telling introduction to the amazing world of bats, it is now in press with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and the first round of editing has been completed. And there will be LOTS of bat photos in it! Prior to making final photo selections for the book, Merlin wants a few more photos of bats catching insects, one of the more difficult challenges in bat photography.

To that end, we leave tomorrow for Bulgaria. Merlin will provide a public bat lecture in Sofia at the British Consulate on Saturday. Then we’ll drive north from Sofia to the Siemers Bat Research Station in the village of Tabachka. Located near the Romanian border, and surrounded by hundreds of caves, the area supports 23 of Bulgaria’s 33 bat species. We’ll be joined in Sofia by bat research colleagues, Daniela Schmieder and Antonia Hubancheva, both of whom are exceptionally experienced in captive maintenance and training of insect-eating bats.

The combination of Dani and Toni’s special knowledge and help, bat research facilities and diverse and abundant bats, combined with enthusiastic invitations to visit, was too much for us to resist. We hope to have internet connections there, so stay tuned for progress reports!

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