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Bats Act As Pest Control at Two Old Portuguese Libraries


For their new book, The Library: A World History, architectural historian James Campbell and photographer Will Pryce travelled the world to documentary of the architecture of book storage. And they found that libraries, writes Campbell, “can be much more than the dusty, dark wooden shelves.” Indeed, as The Boston Globe‘s Brainiac noticed, in a couple of cases, Campbell and Pryce found that these age-old institutions act as houses for not only books, but bats, too.

At Biblioteca Joanina and the Mafra Palace Library, both, curiously, located in Portugal, and both built in the 18th century, small bats, about an inch long, act as guards against book-eating insects. The Globe reports on the bat-friendly places:

In an email, Campbell explained that the bats, which are less than inch long, roost during the day behind “elaborate rococo bookcases” and come out at night to hunt insects which otherwise would feast on the libraries’ books. The price of this natural insect control is paid in scat: The bats, Campbell writes, “leave a thin layer of droppings over everything. So each morning the floors have to be thoroughly cleaned…and the furniture has to be covered at night.”
It’s not clear how long the bats have been doing this important job, but Portugal, at least, is letting them take care of scaring away the book-eating bugs ( and probably certain human bookworms, too).

"Bilblioteca Joanina utilizes several intriguing techniques for maintaining their book collection. First, the external walls are 2.11 meters thick and the front door is made of teak. These elements work together to keep a the room temperature consistently between 18º and 20ºÇ. The shelves are made entirely of oak. Oak is known for its hard surface which is difficult for insects to bore into, and for odor which acts as a worm-repellent. Finally, library staff tell us a colony of bats live inside the walls of the library. The bats come out at night to feast on any potential book destroying insects."

“Beautiful carving and bats!” Reviewed 1 September 2014

The library is small but very interesting. It was a fair walk up from town and we were hot by the time we arrived outside the Library. The outside of the building is not that remarkable, but the ornate golden wooden carving inside is amazing, and the cool dark space adds to the atmosphere. I thought my friends were joking when they said there is a colony of bats inside, but it's true - its a completely organic and pesticide free method of insect control which actually preserves the books. Worth a visit.
Visited October 2013

Bookworms are usually welcomed by libraries, but not if they are the creepy-crawly kind that like to munch their way through precious acres of printed paper. Those are the worst type of visitors and need dissuasion at all costs. Staff at the libraries in the National Palace of Mafra and Coimbra University have thus come up with what sounds like a batty solution - but it seems to be working. The only down side, reports The Boston Globe’s online website, is that every morning they have to clear up a whole load of bat excrement.

The delightful story comes in a new book on libraries of the world by author James Campbell.

“The book is full of interesting asides,” reports boston.com, “including the fact about the bats, which live at the Biblioteca Joanina and the Mafra Palace Library in Portugal. In an email, Campbell explained that the bats, which are less than an inch long, roost during the day behind elaborate rococo bookcases and come out at night to hunt insects which otherwise would feast on the libraries' books. The price of this natural insect control is paid in scat: The bats, Campbell writes, "leave a thin layer of droppings over everything. So each morning the floors have to be thoroughly cleaned ... and the furniture has to be covered at night."

It’s messy, time consuming even, but it has kept the bookworms out of the books!

By NATASHA DONN

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Megabats and Microbats: Bats Act As Pest Control at Two Old Portuguese Libraries
Bats Act As Pest Control at Two Old Portuguese Libraries
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