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Florida Bat Control Project

03.03.2005 - I took this photo working on an apartment complex that harbored a very large colony of Brazilian Free-Tailed Bats. The bats entered the apartments via very large gables, which had exposed fascia gaps. These gables were about 60' long, and three stories high. The bats were able to enter throughout the length of the gable, but most chose to enter and exit near the ends, where they had the most clearance. I used six exclusion nets on every gable. Most of the bats used the ends, where I took this shot from atop my ladder.

Oftentimes as I'm working in a more public setting, like an apartment complex, the people below my ladder look up and wonder just what the heck I'm doing with lights and nets and sealant and other tools in the middle of the night (well, dusk). When I tell them I'm removing bats, I either hear, "Oh God! Bats! AaaeeeAAA!!!" or "Thank God! You're getting rid of the bats! AllelujaAAA!!!" It's not that all folk are afraid of bats. Many share my opinion - that they're delightful little things. However, no one cares for the loud chirping or droppings they leave behind, and these bats were just raining down droppings on the sidewalks and stairs below, as well as chirping up a storm. Unsightly, unsoundly, unscently: abomination to the senses.

In this photo, we see bats exiting the building. They often emerge and take off in clusters. I had been confused about the manner in which bats exit buildings. I know in a case like this, and in many cases, that they kind of shuffle single-file to the exit. I would then suspect the bats to take off one-by-one. Sometimes they do, but more often than not, they'll fly out in clumps - four or five bats all at the same time. I never knew why this was, until one day I watched bats exiting a building, and a hawk of some sort, perhaps a Cooper's hawk, sat perched on the roof right above the exit. Each time as bats emerged, the hawk swooped down after them. Bats are very swift, with erratic flight, so the hawk was unable to catch a bat over many attempts. However, I knew it wouldn't be trying if it didn't expect a chance of success, and sure enough, on one of the attempts, *thwack* its talons smacked a bat in mid-air, and the hawk flew back onto the roof to eat it. It bothered me a bit to see a bat lose its life just to serve as a snack, but earlier that day I had eaten some Chicken McNuggets, so I guess I shant let the food chain whip at me.

Still, a bat lives a long time. It's one thing to eat a mouse, which can have like, 100 young a year. It's another to eat a bat. Regardless, I suddenly realized why bats exit in groups - it's simple schooling behavior - members of the herd or the school of fish know that there's safety in numbers, and when one exposes himself as a single target, chances of becoming dinner increase. So the bats exit in groups as a predator-avoidance technique. I've only once observed a predator lurking, but a survival trait is a survival trait. I've never read about this behavior before in any publication, and so perhaps this blog will serve as a time-stamped documentation that I discovered this bat-in-clusters-emergence-predation-avoidance-theory (BICEP-AT).

Do it yourself: Visit my How To Get Rid of Bats page for tips and advice.
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