With up to 6.7 million North American bats dead of white-nose syndrome since 2006, the Nature Conservancy is putting the finishing touches on an artificial cave that they hope will protect the animals from the deadly ailment. Built into a hill 70 miles outside of Nashville, the concrete cave, which is about 78 feet long and 11 feet tall, can accommodate over 200,000 bats on its ridged ceiling. It will be scrubbed clean each autumn and spring to protect against the soil-based fungus believed to cause white-nose. Officials will attempt to use high-frequency sounds to draw bats from a nearby cave, but the hardest part will be maintaining the 35- to 45-degree temperatures that bats need for hibernation. Rather than using an expensive air-temperature-control system (the cave cost $300,000 to build), a concrete shaft—doubling as an entrance for the bats—will draw in cold air during the winter months. An air-conditioning system may also be brought in to cool down the cave before swarming season begins. Estimates suggest that insect-eating bats save the U.S. agriculture industry around $3.7 billion in pest control every year.
Via The Guardian