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The Bats of Glen Cove

The Bats of Glen Cove

The Bats of Glen Cove

Apparently Glen Cove Elementary School has been the home of a colony bats for a number of years.  At our Back-to-School Night on September 5, 2013, students and parents observed a large number of bats leaving the top of the tower in the A pod building.  The colonies live in the space between the blue sheet metal roof and the roofing structure.  This area is separate from the passive air cooling system and the air conditioning ducts.  The bats have no connection with the classrooms or students.  Guano, the term for bat feces is not in contact with students or staff.  Concerns about this were expressed to the local media, TV stations, and the health department.  To confirm the safety of the rooms, a thorough inspection by our maintenance department and then by a firm (Forensic Analytical Consulting Services) specializing in environmental hazards.  Cal-OSHA also did an amazingly thorough analysis of the air quality in the rooms.  All inspections confirmed the safety of our school.


The health concern is the association between bat guano and bird droppings and an illness known as histoplasmosis, an infectious disease caused by inhaling spores of a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum.  Most people exposed to the spores have no symptoms.  Some people develop flu like symptoms.  For those with lung problems it can (rarely) cause severe illness.   Histoplasmosis apparently is not a concern in the dry climates of Northern California. The fungus needs a hot moist climate such as the south.  99% of all cases are from the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys.


Our students and community are naturally curious about our tenants.  To that end we held a bat night on September 24th with a presenter, Corky Quirk from NorCalBats. The species of bat we have is the Mexican Free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis).  However, in our observations of the bats as they exited the towers, there were larger species mixed with group.  This apparently is common with bat species.   Students and parents saw live specimens of bats particularly the Mexican Free-tailed bat.  Pictures are included in this web posting of Mrs. Quick’s presentation.  There is also a video of the evening from the school and a short sample of the video below on this web page.


Information about Bats and Mexican Free-tailed Bats


Bats are a mammal meaning they have warm blood, have live birth, nurse their young, and have fur.  They are the only mammal that truly flies without an airplane.  The bones of the bat’s wing are comparable to the arm and hands of a human.  There are two groups of bats – megabats and microbats.  The Mexican Free-tailed bat is a microbat.  There are no species of megabats in North America. The Mexican Free-tailed bat as with all microbats eats insects.  At Glen Cove there used to be swarms of yellow-jacket wasps feeding off the aphids that were attacking the poplar trees. Students were often stung.  We put out traps for them and killed quarts of them daily but did not make an impact in their numbers.  For the past five or so years these pests have disappeared.  The poplars are free of aphids and we have put away our Calamine lotion as there are no mosquitos biting our delightful children.  Bats can see but mostly rely on echolocation to get around at night and to catch food.  The volume of insects a bat can eat is truly remarkable (3000 mosquitoes a night or its entire body weight in insects each evening).  You would not do well as an insect at Glen Cove.


The Mexican Free-Tailed bat prefers to roost in large numbers in relatively few places making it vulnerable to human disturbance and habitat destruction.  In western California, the bat is of special concern due to declining populations.  It is a protected species.  At Glen Cove the bats apparently come in spring and breed in the towers.  In October, the pups are old enough to leave the roost and migrate south.  The migratory patterns of the bats are relatively unknown although Mexico is a good guess as to where they go.  It is of interest that we build bat houses in the Glen Cove area for the return of the bats in the spring.  The school can no longer house the bats although they very much want to go to our school mostly due to the warm temperatures in the roofs of the buildings that are ideal for breeding colonies. 


The life span of a Mexican Free-tailed bat is up to eight years.  In this area they are prey to opossums, striped skinks, raccoon, great horned owls, barn owls, and black shouldered kites.   This species has a low incidence of rabies in the United States.  However, students should never touch a bat on the ground during the day or night. A rabid bat will not attack but all bats will bite if they are handled.  This species of bat is nocturnal and hunts from dusk to dawn.  Apparently they are the highest flying of all bats – up to 3,300 meters. 


At our bat night we set up lights to take videos of the colonies as they exited the building at dusk.  We discovered that the bats would not come out if the lights were on.  Apparently light makes them vulnerable to predators.  We are looking for a location for bat houses.  Unfortunately the lights behind the portables designed to keep away wire thieves will be a problem for the bats.  We hope that by March we will have found sponsors for bat houses.  There are boy scout troops who are willing to build the houses.  Bat houses are about 3 feet by two feet by 8 inches and are easy to make.  They need to be on poles about 20 feet high and in the sun where they can stay warm.  One of these small house can keep around 300 bats!







Mexican Free-tailed Bat Face

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Mexican Free-tailed Bat Wing

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Mexican free-tailed Bat Tail

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Bat Skeleton

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Bat Night at Glen Cove

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Bat Night Video (click on the x to close the ads....)