A lethal disease is ravaging bat colonies from eastern Canada and New England to North Carolina. The disease, white-nose syndrome, is caused by a fungus that causes holes to form in the membranes that enable bats to fly. Surveys indicate that in some areas the population of little brown bats has declined 91% and that of northern bats by 98%.
The economic implications for agriculture can be dramatic because a colony of 150 bats eats about 1.3 million insects each year, according to one study. Fewer bats, of course, mean more insects and more alternative means of insect control, which generally means more pesticides. One estimate values bats at more than $3 billion a year.
There is a glimmer of hope, however. Scientists see some evidence that the disease may not be as lethal in warmer climates. Note the operative word: perhaps.
If you have any interest in bats and their relationship to the environment, or just enjoy watching a little brown bat swooping over your garden in search of insects, you’ll want to read “On the trail of a bat scourge” by Darryl Fears in today’s Washington Post. CLICK HERE.