The warm weather has activated the state's legendary hordes.

Bats exit a manmade cave in Texas' Bamberger Ranch Preserve. (USFWS/Ann Froschauer)

How's the weather in Texas? One might say hairy, fluttering, and filled with a cacophony of high-pitched shrieking.

A warm spell has hit Texas, and it's triggered restlessness not just among joggers and cyclists. Over in the western part of the state, huge swarms of bats are taking off and chasing bugs in the night sky. These groupings are so large they appear almost like rain storms on Doppler, as recently demonstrated above the cave-dotted savanna of the Edwards Plateau.

An Air Force-base radar spotted one colony emerging around 5:45 p.m. on Sunday, 33 miles northwest of Del Rio. It's the blue-green jellyfish shown here attacking the U.S./Mexican border:

Austin/San Antonio NWS

About 15 minutes later, another colony awoke and soared off into the sunset. It appeared on radar as an overturned, aquamarine crescent moon south of Carta Valley:

Austin/San Antonio NWS

As anyone who's been dive-bombed by bats at Austin's airport knows, great numbers of the furry fliers have picked Texas for their seasonal hunting grounds. Austin's under-the-bridge bats are legendary, and the biggest bat colony on earth swoops into Bracken Cave near San Antonio every spring. (With roughly 20 million bats, it's said to be one of the largest accumulations of mammals in the world.)

The animals help the locals manage mosquitoes and other pests—the Bracken multitude can eat 140 tons of insects in one night—and in return the locals extend their own occasional favor. Last year, for instance, conservationists scuttled plans for a 3,500-home subdivision outside San Antonio, fearing its street lights might disrupt the squeaking hordes. As one of the people involved said: "We would have had hundreds of bats congregating on the porches, around street lights, around swimming pools."

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  2. A photo of police officers sealing off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
    Life

    Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

    The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.

  3. An illustration of the Memorial Day flood in Ellicott City, Maryland.
    Environment

    In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning

    Storms supercharged by climate change pose a dire threat to river towns. After two catastrophic floods, tiny Ellicott City faces a critical decision: Rebuild, or retreat?

  4. Design

    Bringing New Life to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lost Designs

    “I would love to model all of Wright's work, but it is immense,” says architect David Romero. “I do not know if during all my life I will have time.”

  5. A line of stores in Westport, Connecticut
    Equity

    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

    In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.