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.
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.