Bats have a bit of a image issue, it’s true. People think of them as filthy, disease-ridden, blood-sucking little monsters of the night. In fact, 70% of bats eat insects alone, serving as an excellent form of pest control. Many bats are also pollinators, like bees, helping crops to thrive. Interactions with humans have been over-hyped and are much more frightening for the little bats than the big person!
Unfortunately, like so many of nature’s creatures, bats are having a harder time finding safe habitat. Disease and encroachment have displaced and decimated many bat colonies across the globe. If only there were more bat houses like the ones at University of Florida!
The University of Florida Bat House and Barn were constructed in response to a colony of 5,000 bats on the UF campus being displaced by a fire. The bats had been living in Johnson Hall when it was destroyed by fire in 1987. In response, the bats took up new residence in several of the campus stadiums. As you might imagine, the resulting musky odor and guano – bat droppings – were unwelcome additions to the facilities in question.
Rather than work on a campaign to eradicate them, the University decided to re-house the bats in an appropriate structure. Enter the University of Florida Bat House!
The first UF Bat House was constructed in 1991 and, once they convinced the bats to live in it, the bat colony began to thrive. So much so, in fact, that a second structure – the UF Bat Barn – was constructed in 2010. What started out as a colony of 5,000 individuals has since blossomed to an estimated 300,000 bats! That many bats would consume around TWO TONS of insects an evening – as good an argument that I can think of for helping bats to thrive!
The most common species of bat living at the UF Bat Houses is the Brazilian Free-Tailed Bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) but the Southeastern Bats (Myotis austroriparius), and Evening Bats (Nycticeius humeralis) are also here.
Visitors to the University of Florida Bat House and Barn come to see a very special show. Just after sunset, right before total darkness, the bats emerge from the Bat House and Barn in a huge cloud to begin their hunt. The emergence can take between 10 and 20 minutes and is a stunning, natural spectacle.
Sometimes the bats are attracted to the exhaled carbon dioxide of the watching crowd and swoop down low over them. They don’t bother anyone – they just dart and swoop over your head. Exciting!
University of Florida Bat House
Museum Rd, Gainesville, FL 32603
The best times to visit the UF Bat Barn and House are on warm, calm, spring and early summer nights. The structures are located on the north side of Museum Road between Village Drive and Radio Road. Parking is available in a lot just west of the bat houses near Radio Road. A sidewalk leads from the parking lot to the observation area. Parking is free after 4:30pm weekdays, on weekends, and state holidays. A UF parking decal is required Monday through Friday, from 7:30am to 4:30pm. Visit the UF Bat House website for more information.
University of Florida Lodging
Whether you’re visiting UF for bats or for Gators, Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast is your best bet for top-tier North Florida Lodging. Our contemporary, Florida lakeside inn is just a little over 20 miles from the UF Bat House – and the UF Stadium! Our convenient location also puts you just 14 miles from Gainesville Regional Airport. Book your stay at Hampton Lake Bed & Breakfast today!