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Dwindling Bat Populations Threaten U.S. Food Supply

Dwindling Bat Populations Threaten U.S. Food Supply

A recent study found that unless we can find a solution to dwindling bat populations in North America, farmers, and ultimately consumers, are likely to pay the price.

Scientists believe that a disease known as White Nose Syndrome, first discovered in a cave outside Albany, N.Y. around four years ago, could wipe out all North American bats in less than 20 years if no cure is found.

As Care2′s Alicia Graef reports, over one million bats are thought to have died from White Nose Syndrome in the past four years. This condition awakens bats early from hibernation before there is enough available food and is indicated by a white fungus on the bat’s snout.

Scientists believe the disease is being spread between bats, but they also strongly believe that it is introduced by humans who visit bat caves.

The collaborative report from the U.S Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Pretoria, the University of Tennessee and Boston University finds bats in North America likely provide farmers more than $3.7 billion worth of pest-control services each year, but the rapid loss of bat populations could lead to agricultural losses.

As an article on SupermarketGuru.com points out, while bat populations thrived, farmers and consumers gave little thought to the services they provided in the fields. But now that their numbers are shrinking, the impact begins to emerge.

Paul Cryan, a research biologist with the USGS and one of the study’s co-authors, says that insect-eating bats in the U.S. are major predators of night flying insects and that many of those insects also damage or feed on our crops. In the U.S. and Canada there are 42 different species of bats eating these crop-damaging insects.

Without bats on the job, it’s likely that farmers will turn to increased pesticide use as a way to keep insects from eating their crops, a move that threatens human health.

Take Action: The Bureau of Land Management is accepting comments about the proposed closure of caves and abandoned mines in Colorado, where WNS has not yet been found, until June 3. You can submit your comment in writing to:

Bureau of Land Management,

Colorado River Valley Field Office

ATTN: Brian Hopkins

2300 River Frontage Rd.

Silt, CO 81652

Related Reading:

Discovery Channel Teaches People How To Kill Bats

Deadly Disease Could Make Brown Bats Extinct In Less Than 20 Years

Speak Up For Bats

 

Read more: , , , , , , , ,

Image: Little brown bat; close-up of nose with fungus, New York, Oct. 2008. Credit: Ryan von Linden/New York Department of Environmental Conservation via U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

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72 comments

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1:56AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

This is a very sad story. Other animals and plants have to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy everything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." (Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

7:50AM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

I didn't realize that bats were so critical to our food supply. In Texas we love bats, because they eat thousands of mosquitos. Glad to see that the majority of voters, voted to close caves to humans. So often humans only think of their priorities and "freedoms", so glad that a majority saw the larger problem -- but then, Care2 readers are caring people.

1:43PM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

This is an important issue, and not even controversial, except when you prefer to fund wars and other subsidies to the wealthy over protecting and strengthening our people, nation and natural resources

1:25PM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

We are surely in the end times. Did you know that if humans were to die off the insects would live on. However if all the insects were to die, we would not survive at all. This was a comment from a well knows scientist.

10:34AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

Another example of human-induced animal death and disease. I can't imagine Congress caring anything about the dwindling bat population, but it's worth a try. When man negatively affects the lives of wild creatures, it means throwing nature out of balance, and humans will ultimately pay dearly for it.

6:40AM PDT on Jun 3, 2011

interesting article, thanks for sharing :p

3:52PM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

When you get up in the morning, take stock of what you do that day that will affect the world in negative. What you eat, how you travel, what products you THINK you need to buy, etc.
Check off what you DON'T need. Make changes for the positive.

10:52AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

our existence is threatening

8:45AM PDT on Jun 2, 2011

We are the cause of most species numbers dwindling. And because of this, it will affect us and how species play their role in the environment. Pesticides will just make us sicker. If bees keep dying off, it will affect crops too. We are just not going to learn anything until it is too late when food crops will be in trouble and clean water too.

11:41PM PDT on Jun 1, 2011

This is very sad. I love bats and I'd much rather have them around than all sorts of pests. I'd much rather live in a world with bees and bats and what's supposed to be there than in one where we've allowed the extinction of everything we find weird or ugly. We need bees and bats for our survival!

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