SUGARLOAF KEY, Florida Keys — Behind the Lower Keys’ Sugarloaf Lodge at mile marker 17 a strange shingled tower has become a beloved local landmark.
Local residents call it the Bat Tower. It was built by early Lower Keys landowner Richter Clyde Perky as an attempt to control mosquitoes around his fishing resort.
Inspired by a book titled “Bats, Mosquitoes, and Dollars,” Perky decided to rely on mosquito-eating bats to solve his problem, and constructed a roost to house them based on the author’s specifications. Completed in September 1929, the 30-foot-tall unpainted tower reportedly cost nearly $10,000.
Perky then purchased a secret “bat bait” from the author. Bats were supposed to be drawn irresistibly by the bait, adopt the tower as their home and leave it nightly to devour the area’s mosquitoes.
Keys legend offers two versions of what actually happened. Some say Perky installed bats that flew away almost instantly and never returned. Others say the bait remained in the tower for a year without attracting a single wandering bat.
These days, the Florida Keys’ Mosquito Control forces combat the pesky insects. The bat tower, however, still stands behind Sugarloaf Lodge, an offbeat monument to a “batty” Keys idea.
Big Pine Key & The Lower Keys visitor information: fla-keys.com/lowerkeys or 800-822-1088
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