McNeil bat colony still going strong despite construction around their home


ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — KXAN viewers have been reaching out wondering if a rise in insects is connected to construction around a large, well-known bat colony’s home.

The Mexican free-tailed bats make up the “McNeil Colony,” and half a million are estimated to live in the small spaces under the Interstate 35 bridge at McNeil Road in Round Rock.

“There’s a lot of bats — it’s ridiculous sometimes,” said Jason Winn, who drives under the bridge almost every day. 

The Texas Department of Transportation has been working on the bridge for more than a year.

When we went to check out the bridge Thursday night around 6 p.m. the smell of guano — bat droppings — was undeniable, and we could see and hear the bats flying around getting ramped up for their nightly feeding.

The Austin Bat Refuge monitors the colony by radar every night and says it still looks healthy and does not appear to be shrinking.

It’s great news for Winn who lives about a mile from the bridge.

“I don’t want to be spraying poisons around my yard to keep the bug population down,” said Winn.

Experts also say there are many contributing factors to a higher population of flies and mosquitos, and while bats do eat mosquitos, it’s not their main meal.

They are more likely to go for insects like moths, beetles and wasps.

A TxDOT spokesperson says there are specific rules they have to follow when it comes to wildlife habitat and have taken steps along the way to protect the bats.

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