BRACKEN, Texas – You no longer have to travel to the San Antonio area to see the world’s largest bat colony — you can catch the action on your phone or desktop thanks to the Bat Channel.
Bracken Bat Cave is home to the largest colony of bats in the world and it’s located just 20 minutes outside of San Antonio.
Traditionally, you had to have reservations to see the tornado of bats (also referred to as a batnado), but now you can catch the experience online via livestream.
Somewhere between 15 and 20 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from Bracken Bat Cave during the summer months.
“This vortex, a swirling ‘batnado,’ will start rising out of the sinkhole, and once they get up to the tree-top levels, they’ll start streaming away from the cave. They stay tight, like a river of bats, because of predators in the area,” Bracken Cave director Fran Hutchins previously told KSAT.
Bat Conservation International members still get access to exclusive in-person viewing dates, however, all the remaining 2023 bat flight nights are sold out.
Public bat flight nights also take place throughout the summer for anyone interested in seeing the batnado in person but there’s only one date left for the season and tickets are extremely limited.
Admission is $90 and all proceeds go towards bat conservation and helping bats survive the most pressing threats, like habitat loss, starvation, and disease.
According to Batcon.org, bats have been on Earth for more than 50 million years and are the second-largest order of mammals with more than 1,400 species.
Hutchins told KSAT that the colony at Bracken Cave eats somewhere in the neighborhood of 140-147 tons of insects when they go out to feed every night.
“Most of those insects are what we call ‘crop pests,’ and that’s going to save farmers in the Texas Hill Country hundreds of thousands of dollars every season,” Hutchins said.
This cuts down on the amount of pesticide farmers have to use for their crops, and in turn, helps keep chemicals out of the air and out of the food, which helps South Texas residents.
Bats are also considered a keystone species that is vital to certain ecosystems. Without bats’ pollination and seed-dispersing services, local ecosystems could gradually collapse as plants fail to provide food and cover for wildlife species near the base of the food chain, according to Batcon.org.