Bat colonies are sometimes so large that they can be seen on radar as a they move across a landscape.
Spreading was inspired by an article in the Texas Hill Country magazine titled Texas Hill Country Bat Wars Coming to a Cave Near You! The article, which included the USGS radar image above, described the millions of Brazilian Free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) bats from Frio Cave, Bracken Cave, and the Congress Avenue bridge in Austin, spreading across Texas and Mexico, and attacking together to wage "war" on corn borer moths in the sky.
Last night, tens of millions of European corn borer moths took to the skies, headed for the vast fields of the mid-west, their intent to lay billions of eggs on corn and other crops. The eggs will grow into destructive, corn eating worms. Rising to meet them from small limestone caves around the Hill Country are small flying mammals, the Mexican free tail bat (Tadarida brasiliensis) numbering in the millions. The bats engage the enemy at 10,000 feet, and it is a free-wheeling battle, with each bat taking 30 or more moths in each sortie from their cave.
- Texas Hill Country Magazine
Not surprisingly, bats often become part of the weather report too, as large colonies can also be seen fleeing approaching storms. Watching bat colonies gives audiences a great deal of pleasure, which spreads the word about their value to agriculture and promotes bat conservation.
Spreading is based on the Paul Simon song Me and Julio Down By the School Yard.
Note from the artist:
Originally I planned to call this drawing The Press Let the Story Leak, a reference to a line in Paul Simon's song where he describes how the characters "Me" and "Julio" are saved from jail because of a newscast putting a good spin on their crime. However, the title Spreading refers to a musical composition by Dumisani Maraire that I learned from a Kronos quartet recording. Maraire's composition is called Kutambarara. Maraire sings about spreading the musical heritage of Zimbabwe while protecting their traditions from imperialism.