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ComBATing White-nose Syndrome

Photo Credit: Summit Constructors
The Bellamy Cave, located in Tennessee, home to the largest number of caves in the U.S. is the first manmade cave built for bats in the wild. The project was developed by The Nature Conservancy (Tennessee chapter) in an effort to combat a deadly fungus, white-nose syndrome that has killed millions of bats.

White-nose syndrome (WNS), a deadly fungus that grows on the muzzle, ears, and wings of bats was discovered in New York during the winter of 2006/2007 and has since spread to 22 states.

The fungus, which invades the epidermis of the bats, causes them to wake early from hibernation to remove the fungus; however once they are awake their metabolism speeds up, they lose body fat, and starve to death without available insects to eat.

In an effort to combat this devastating disease The Nature Conservancy (Tennessee chapter) raised $300,000 to build the first manmade hibernating structure, otherwise known as the Bellamy Cave. Built by Old Castle Precast, the cave is made from prefabricated concrete sections, and is 78 feet long, 16 feet wide, and 11 feet tall, about the size of a singlewide mobile home.

The Bellamy Cave project and Old Castle Precast recently garnered the attention of the National Precast Concrete Association (NPCA) by winning the 1st Place-Underground Creative Use of Precast (CUP) Award. This award recognizes projects promoting the innovative and cost-saving advantages of precast concrete.

The artificial cave is placed near a natural cave with an established hibernation population of gray bats. The plan is to coax some of them to the new digs by emitting ultra-sonic bat calls on loudspeakers.

Unlike natural caves, it will be cleaned annually to keep the fungus that causes white-nose syndrome from reaching lethal levels. "We talked with other people, waiting for one of them to call us crazy and no one did," said Gina Hancock, director of the Tennessee chapter of the conservancy.

For more information about white-nose syndrome, please visit

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November 13, 2019, 7:19 pm PDT

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