As the setting sun turns the sky from a bold blue into a fiery-orange inferno, echoing the colors of Gator pride, hundreds of visitors gather to peer into the evening air. The chirping sounds emanating from the UF Bat Barn and Bat House complex grow louder and on-lookers’ anticipation increases. This “colony chatter”, a sophisticated form of interaction between members of the group, fills the twilight.

Located on the north side of Museum Road by Lake Alice, the structures on UF’s campus are home to the world’s largest population of bats to be found under one roof. Campus is widely known for its resident alligators, but should also gain fame for its impressive bat population. The estimated 400,000 occupants of the UF Bat Houses consume several billion insects nightly. Their enormous contribution to natural pest control makes them invaluable resources in our swampy habitat of Gainesville.

The bat house experience is a must-do on the Gainesville bucket list. It has become a ritual for many UF students and creates a welcome reprieve from the normality of daily life. Children and adults of all ages marvel at the sight of the evening emergence. The spectacle is a popular attraction year-round, but the opportunity to get close to these incredible creatures is appropriately festive during this time of year.

Bats have become the unofficial mascot for the Halloween holiday, gracing everything from decorations to cupcakes. Often misunderstood, bats have become associated with darkness and fright for reasons that are unclear. Have no fear, though, the bats living on campus are not of the Vampire variety. They will not suck your blood…but do beware of falling guano.

Each evening, in the fading light, a few brave souls will emerge first, spiraling through the air and into the surrounding landscape. Then, after the sun sets, a colossal cloud of bats pours out all at once. As the bats perform their phenomenal exodus in one large mass, one is reminded of the quintessential Gator motto, “in all kinds of weather, we all stick together.”

For more information, visit: https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/index.php/bats/home/