Trouble in the Bat World Means Trouble for U.S. Food Supply

Saturday, April 02, 2011
Bat with White Nose Syndrome (photo: Ryan von Linden, New York Department of Environmental Conservation)
Bats deserve better. So say federal and university researchers from the United States and South Africa who have pointed out the economic advantage bats provide in protecting agriculture by eating insects that are harmful to crops—and the potential losses the industry might sustain unless more is done to protect this underappreciated species. Unfortunately, a dangerous fungus has been spreading among America’s bat population, causing more than one million to die off, while still others are being wiped out by contact with wind turbines.
A study produced by experts at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Pretoria, University of Tennessee and Boston University shows bats save farmers at least $3 billion a year by eating up insects that otherwise would have to be controlled with chemicals.
Paul Cryan, a USGS research scientist and one of the study’s authors, said: “This analysis suggests that bats are saving us big bucks by gobbling up insects that eat or damage our crops. It is obviously beneficial that insectivorous bats are patrolling the skies at night above our fields and forests—these bats deserve help.”
The fungus, known as white-nose syndrome, causes bats to awaken from hibernation prematurely because they have used up their reserves of body fat. Leaving caves in search of insects that have not yet emerged, the infected bats die during their search for food.
The fungus first appeared in bats in Howe Cave near Albany, New York, in 2006 and since then has spread across the Northeast, to the South and the West. It is now found in 16 states and three Canadian provinces. Two years ago, the U.S. Forest Service temporarily closed down caves in 33 states in an attempt to control the disease. It has also shut down abandoned mines where bats are known to hibernate.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Bats Worth Billions to Agriculture: Pest-control Services at Risk (Boston University, University of Tennessee, University of Pretoria, South Africa)
White Nose Syndrome Page (National Speleological Society)


action... 12 years ago
what i didn't read in this article is, "how you can help." i have a large back yard and would love to have a small bat house. i would also like to have someone make sure my bats are healthy and safe to be on my land.
Mandy 12 years ago
danny - people also carry diseases and spread fungus, would you say a good person is a dead person? and can you tell me why we should listen to you rather than scientists who have spent years researching bats?
simplydannygirl 12 years ago
i say..... a good bat is dead bat..... bat carries deases and spread fungus.... the article is not entirely true at all. danny

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