If all goes well, someday TMI – The Episcopal School of Texas will have more bats than students. The school put up two new bat houses Sept. 26 with hopes that this addition to the campus will lead to natural pest control and other benefits.
“We are expected to get some migratory bats soon, in October, if they decide to stay in our bat houses,” said Sherry Lim, the school’s director of outdoor education. “We could have a potential of 600 bats.”
Here’s why the school – which currently has 474 students – would want to share its wooded, 83-acre campus with all those bats. The nocturnal mammals can
Consume up to two-thirds of their body weight in insects every night
Produce droppings (guano) that can be used as soil moisturizer and fertilizer
Give students the experience of natural solutions to environmental challenges
Funded by a grant from the school’s Family Association, the TMI bat houses were installed in the school garden and near a creek that could be the hoped-for colony’s source of water. Hand-built by Lone Star Woodcraft, their design is certified as bat-friendly by the Austin-based Bat Conservation International.
The new residents should cut down on mosquitoes in the student-tended school garden. The resulting guano is “gold to the garden,” said Lim, who also teaches seventh-grade Life Science. The bats also may indirectly keep the young gardeners more comfortable: “We are practicing organic gardening practices with the plants we have out there now. We are trying to keep the garden green and did not want to put chemicals out there to get rid of the mosquitoes.”
Now that TMI has built a habitat, will bats come?
“In October, San Antonio has quite a few species of bats that migrate,” said Lim. “Chances of us getting migratory bats very soon are quite a possibility. They will have a home in the garden.”