Garden-Ville has been using bat guano on the farm and in the garden
since 1959. Selling it in their store since 1970 and doing their own
harvesting, from the Bracken Cave, which is only a short distance
from Garden-Ville, since 1982.
The Bracken Cave is the
largest active bat cave in the world. Each year, on Feb. 3rd, twenty
million mother bats come from Mexico to the Bracken Cave to give birth
to their young. While they are here they will deposit between 85 to
a 100 tons of guano, per year, in the cave. In order to generate this
much guano the bats, along with their young, will consume up to 200
tons of insects each night.
I have researched the Bracken
Cave going back to1896 when first harvested by the Marbach Family.
There is still some of the family in this area. One interesting discovery
is, “no one has ever gotten sick from working in the cave and
handling the guano, in fact, these workers seamed to be immune to
even the common cold”.
When the Marbach’s
first worked the cave they shoveled it into gunny sacks and cloth-lined
the sacks out on a cable, later they dug a shaft down to largest area
in the back of the cave and hoisted the bags out with a rope a over
a pulley. By the late 1970s large vacuum equipment became available
and it has been used every since.
The bats don’t give
us very much time to do the harvesting. Some years they don’t
leave for their winter home until a really cold spell sends them on
their way. Which is usually November or later. Then we have to wait
another ten days to two weeks for the guano beetles to finish their
job of digesting the guano and any dead bats into a fine, better smelling
product. Actually the product we harvest is more beetle poop than
The shaft in the back of
the cave, and the harvesting, has made the cave a better habitat for
the bats. To show their appreciation the bats swirl up, each night,
in enormous columns with a spectacular show. And when they are away
on vacation they allow us to take from their summer home tons of the
very finest plant food.