Trisha’s friend Shannon, who we’re staying with for a few days, has lived in Gainesville before and knows where all the cool places are. She offered to show us the University of Florida bat houses. I had to go read up on the history of these myself to understand why a university would even have these. It seems a bat colony already lived in one of the existing buildings. When it burned down, they moved to the athletic facilities, where the mess they made was a problem. To relocate them, they built a better home than the bleachers and tennis court they’d moved into, and the bat houses have been a fixture of UF ever since. The colony has not only survived but thrived. They’ve had to build more bat houses to accommodate the growing colony, numbering about 500,000 bats now. That’s a lot of bats!
After sunset, the bats come out to dine on the local insect population. They’re harmless to humans, and it’s illegal to disturb them. It’s perfectly fine to watch them, though, which is exactly what they did. At first a few came out, then a few more. Soon there was a constant stream of bats leaving the bat houses, flying around the trees right over us, and off to the pond across the street. It looked like rush hour traffic as the bats left home to commute to work, which was essentially what they were doing.
Most of the bats flew around the trees. Some of them took alternate routes. None of them ran into the trees. Some of them ducked underneath, passing barely above our heads. I don’t know that I’ve ever been as close to bats as this, and have certainly never seen this many. That was so cool.
I was unable to get decent pictures because it was getting dark and the bats move so quickly. Definitely keep an eye out for this video, which captured them quite well.
We didn’t follow the bats across the street to the pond. This sign made it rather unappealing.