If you haven’t heard, there have been massive die-offs of bats across the U.S. recently. Scientists have been warning us about the main cause, White-Nose Syndrome (WNS), for years… but who listens to scientists?
With WNS, a fungus leaves a white substance all over bats disrupting hibernation patterns, forcing bats to use up all of their fat reserves and leading to starvation. Doesn’t sound pleasant.
When WNS goes through bat communities, it is causing about 80-100% mortality.
“The disease is absolutely devastating, it’s unprecedented,” says biologist Mylea Bayless from Bat Conservation International. “It’s causing population declines in wildlife that we haven’t seen since the passenger pigeon.”
How Can a Bat Die-Off Hurt You?
Bats are a key natural pest control for our country’s crops. The annual value of local bats in a handful of counties in Texas was found to be $740,000 in 2006 because of their pest control services. That equaled about 29% of the local cotton crop.
Like honey bees (also suffering a massive die-off), bats are also important for pollination and spreading of seeds.
In Arizon, bats are the main pollinators of three large cactus species that are critical to the region’s ecosystem.
These bats are maybe highly invisible to people and even scary to many, but they are also critical to the ecosystems we live in and live off of.
For more on this story, I got this info from an excellent piece by Bruce Kennedy of Daily Finance, “An ‘Unprecedented’ Bat Die-Off Could Devastate U.S. Agriculture.” There is more on the topic over there.
I have to say, with our long history of devaluing the ecosystems and species we rely on to live and to live comfortably, it is great to see a piece like this getting publish on a major financial site like this.
Photo Credit: bat, by flickr user tarotastic under a CC license