Join us! - MTBC Events and Field Trips

Close this search box.

Pecan Growers Partnering with Bats

Our Join the Nightlife workshop in Central Texas featured a collaboration with Swift River Pecans and the Noble Research Institute, and was an enthusiastically acclaimed success by participants. Thirty-two attended from seven states, spending three days and nights learning from leading experts on bats and environmentally friendly pecan growing and agriculture. 

Speakers included Troy Swift, owner of Swift River Pecans, Charles Rohla, Manager of Pecans for the Noble Research Institute, Merlin Tuttle, Founder of Merlin Tuttle’s Bat Conservation, and Janet Tyburec, Founder of Bat Survey Solutions. Sessions covered bat biology, sustainable pecan farming, the role of bats in pest reduction, and how to attract bats to orchard bat houses. Participants enjoyed a visit to the famous Bracken Cave, daytime field trips to learn about environmentally improved pecan production and bat house building, and evenings learning how to sample bats with acoustic detectors, verified with mist net and harp trap captures. Eight bat species were detected acoustically, half also by capture.

Merlin welcoming participants to Bracken Cave on the opening night of the workshop.

Workshop Lectures

(L-R) Troy Swift, Charles Rohla, Janet Tyburec, and Merlin Tuttle present to the workshop participants during lecture sessions.

Evenings Netting Bats

(L-R) Janet Tyburec describes where to place mist nets for success, participants take a close look at a harp trap, Merlin provides assistance with net setup, and Janet gives everyone a chance to see a bat up close!

All five of the first bat house test locations in three orchards had successfully attracted bats in their first season of availability. In fact, one house is already occupied to capacity. This is especially encouraging, because these houses were specifically designed to protect bats from the increasingly intense summer heat waves in Texas. The best occupied house attracted its first 50 bats during a week when high temperatures ranged from 102-107 °F, and numbers have subsequently grown. All the test houses were mounted on poles in full sun. Plans for these houses will be available in our new Bat House Guide, available for preorder, and projected to be available in bookstores and on Amazon, by mid-November.

The information gained from these early tests confirms potential to increase numbers of at least three bat species. Identity of house occupants will be verified using a genetic technique referred to as “barcoding”. The bats’ impact on orchard pests will be estimated using the same technique, examining fecal contents to identify insect pest species consumed. 

There is widespread interest among pecan growers to incorporate bats as integrated pest management strategies. Fortunately, Troy Swift owns his own sawmill and has an excellent supply of Pecky cypress wood salvaged after floods. This wood is outstanding for use in bat house construction. Next to red wood, it’s America’s longest-lasting wood, potentially lasting up to 50 years even when left unpainted. Our early tests suggest a preference among Central Texas bats for these houses painted the same color as the natural wood. And the use of metal roofs likely will extend the house’s lifespan. Thanks to our collaboration with Swift River Pecans and the Noble Research Institute, we have an unprecedented opportunity to conduct the first long-term research to simultaneously help bats and address urgent needs to reduce pesticide use.

Workshop participants visit Troy Swift's sawmill and lumberyard to see the traditional (top) and rocket box (middle) bat houses being tested at Swift River Pecans (bottom).
Cover of "The Bat House Guide" by Merlin Tuttle and Danielle Cordani. A flying bat approaches a bat house with a sunset behind it.
Order the new Bat House Guide now!

Love our content? Support us by sharing it!


Related Posts

Don't miss a post!

Get all the latest news from MTBC delivered straight to your inbox.

Michael Lazari Karapetian

Michael Lazari Karapetian has over twenty years of investment management experience. He has a degree in business management, is a certified NBA agent, and gained early experience as a money manager for the Bank of America where he established model portfolios for high-net-worth clients. In 2003 he founded Lazari Capital Management, Inc. and Lazari Asset Management, Inc.  He is President and CIO of both and manages over a half a billion in assets. In his personal time he champions philanthropic causes. He serves on the board of Moravian College and has a strong affinity for wildlife, both funding and volunteering on behalf of endangered species.