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Bat Fungus Wiping Out Our Flying Friends

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The fungus strikes when the bats are clustered in caves, hibernating through the cold winter. The tell-tale white patches have led to its being called “white-nose disease,” but the cold-loving fungus is pervasive. As it eats away the bats’ fat stores, they awaken too frequently, sometimes fly in search of food and water when it is not available, and ultimately die of starvation.

The environmental benefit of bats is enormous. Brown bats, who are heavily affected by white-nose syndrome, “can eat more than 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in just one hour.” Bat Conservation International credits bats not only with pest control but also with their critical role as pollinators and seed dispersers. A US Geological Survey report places their value to U.S. agriculture at a low of $3.7 billion to a high of $53 billion every year, solely from pest control.

Researchers are working against the clock to develop treatments. They worry their efforts may not be in time to ensure survival of the five species most affected. Science News reports, “Any recovery of American populations from white-nose syndrome, scientists now suspect, will take many decades if not a century or longer.”

In the meantime, the costs to agriculture and health (due to an increase in disease-bearing insects) will continue to mount.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region via Flickr Creative Commons

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6:13AM PDT on Mar 24, 2013

Save our bats.

4:14AM PST on Jan 18, 2012

Its Heartbreking

8:40PM PST on Nov 26, 2011

I'm sorry to hear that our flying friends on the other side of the globe are under threat from the white nose fungus. However, bats here in Eastern Australia are posing a threat. They are carriers of the hendra virus which has already killed humans and some horses. Currently there is no vaccine for it although one seems to be in the pipeline. The transmission process is not well understood and there was the instance where a family pet dog was found to be carrying the virus and while showing no symptoms, was put down.

Earlier this year also, fruit bats were relocated from the Botanical Gardens in Sydney because there were so destructive to the plant life there. Everything possible was attempted, noises, alarms and so on but nothing worked. Eventually they were relocated, much to the chagrin of the residents in their new locale. Particularly those with fruit trees.

1:23AM PDT on Sep 6, 2011

Thanks so much for this article and for sharing the facts about bats with us. I have always had a high appreciation for bats as I am allergic to most biting/stinging insects, and as you stated, bats are the best at pest control. People tend to be very ignorant and scared of bats, sometimes grossly abusing them. I really like and acknowledge how you stated bats give us pest control for free and only want to be left alone in return. So true. They are noble, helpful creatures, and this fungus truly is devastating for the balance of nature and for humanity. After all, how many diseases are propagated by just the mosquitoes?

6:24AM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

thanks for sharing this article :)

1:45AM PDT on Sep 1, 2011

They serve a useful purpose and co exist with us and nature around the world.

6:44PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

I hope there will be a way to save these little animals! I can't imagine a world without them, or why the 1% voted the wrong way? Please do a follow up and bring us (good I hope) news. Many Thanks!!!!~!

3:27PM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

Always the miserable, compassionless contingent make their voices heard in our forum; today it's the 1% who feel we should not try to research why the bats are dying.

9:26AM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

aaaah poor little things, they arr so lovely and cute. and furry

7:42AM PDT on Aug 31, 2011

Poor batty bats. I hope they find a cure.

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