More bats, you say?
January 22, 2019 7:48 PM   Subscribe

Dr. Charles Augustus Rosenheimer Campbell, the chief bacteriologist of San Antonio in the early 20th century, wanted to try harnessing bats' appetite for mosquitoes to fight malaria--so he set about designing several stately towers intended to attract and house bats. Sadly, only two Campbell bat roosts remain standing today. Bat Conservation International tells the story of the Hygieostatic Bat Roost in Comfort, TX; Atlas Obscura offers additional background and more photos. The other remaining Campbell bat roost, at Shangri La Gardens in Orange, TX, has disintegrated over the years. Hurricane Irma took down Florida's Sugarloaf Key Bat Tower in 2017; The Architect's Newspaper describes how the picturesque landmark was beloved by locals despite famously containing zero bats throughout its history. Perhaps the most striking of the Campbell bat roosts, in Temple Terrace, Florida, burned down in 1979. The University of South Florida offers a short history video.
posted by duffell (12 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, thank you for this. I've been wondering about the Florida Keys tower, which I learned about from the Florida Keys book by Joy Williams that metafilter made me read (and I then became obsessed with...)
posted by armacy at 9:08 PM on January 22, 2019

Needs "batcountry" tag.
posted by reductiondesign at 9:29 PM on January 22, 2019 [2 favorites]

In Texas did Campbell
A stately bat tower decree
posted by fallingbadgers at 11:13 PM on January 22, 2019 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, I remember on one road trip I made my parents make a detour so I could see the Sugarloaf bat tower and being bitterly disappointed when I found out that it did not contain any bats. Somewhere in the family memorabilia is a photo of a young me scowling in front of the tower because how dare a bat tower not have any bats!

(I just really love bats.)
posted by paisley sheep at 11:31 PM on January 22, 2019 [3 favorites]

I have fond memories living within the flight radius of the Waugh bat colony in Houston. The complex has a pool. During summer nights, we’d float in the pool and every so often a bat would swoop in to get a skeeter.
posted by politikitty at 11:41 PM on January 22, 2019


posted by The Whelk at 11:59 PM on January 22, 2019 [6 favorites]


I love bats so much

Not the wolf bats

Just the baby bats and the fruit bats

Wolf bats are unequivocally demon spawn
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:27 AM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Those of you who love bats, do you have any bat houses on your property?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:27 AM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

In related bat new: How one heatwave killed 'a third' of a bat species in Australia [BBC]
“Over two days in November, record-breaking heat in Australia's north wiped out almost one-third of the nation's spectacled flying foxes, according to researchers. The animals, also known as spectacled fruit bats, were unable to survive in temperatures which exceeded 42C. In the city of Cairns, locals saw bats toppling from trees into backyards, swimming pools and other locations. Wildlife rescuers found surviving animals clumped together, usually on branches closer to the ground.”
posted by Fizz at 4:45 AM on January 23, 2019

posted by Fizz at 4:50 AM on January 23, 2019

It’s unproven, and unlikely, that Dr. Campbell’s bat tower had anything to do with a decline in malaria in South San Antonio during that period, or even if such a decline occurred. There were large bat populations in the area already (see this other article from BATS Magazine which describes how Dr. Campbell drove bats from nearby roosts to populate his bat tower).

There are still large bat populations in SA, particularly in the hills and caves North of the city. Bracken Cave, off 1604, is a popular spot to watch the evening emergence of millions of bats. Sadly, encroaching sprawl has decimated bat habitat as homes, golf courses, and developments in the hills are built. As an aside, this same development has damaged the aquifer on which San Antonio depended for its (previously excellent) water, now replaced increasingly by surface reservoirs.
posted by sudogeek at 5:40 AM on January 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Those of you who love bats, do you have any bat houses on your property?

Good question. If you don't, here's the skinny on how to change that.
posted by BWA at 10:34 AM on January 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

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