Not Just the Birds and the Bees

Not Just the Birds and the Bees

I'm a few days behind in finding this article (linked with today's title). But on the strength of it, I'm going to make a request. Buy yourself a bat house. And hang it.

In recent years, we have been warned about the loss of songbirds (mostly to a lack of habitat) and butterflies (habitat, again, plus pesticides) and most recently, honeybees. The honeybee/pollinator problem has been getting lots of attention because of the impact on agriculture and the worldwide food supply. Honeybee deaths have been attributed to a number of different causes and losses have reached catastrophic numbers. Aggressive support programs by various government agencies both in the US and abroad and at the state and federal level have encouraged home bee keepers, and if nothing else, these initiatives have helped to maintain the gene pool.

Bats, however, are facing a much deadlier problem. White Nose Fungus (WNF) causes metabolic problems which essentially lead to the starvation of affected bats. Hibernating bats should only "wake up" every couple of weeks, so the fat reserves they have stored up are consumed slowly.  When infected with WNF, bats wake up every couple of days--consuming their fat stores so quickly that they either freeze to death or starve.

Bats, like honeybees and people, are social creatures. Normally, this is a good thing, in that bats packed tightly together keep each other warm. Under the conditions of a rapidly spreading fungus, it is not so good.

Money is being throw at the problem, primarily to try to stop the spread of WNF (which may have originated in Europe) to the western states and Mexico. Why we should care is the consumption habits of bats.  They eat--literally (not a figure of speech!)--tons of insects. If they aren't eating them, farmers will be forced to use hundreds of thousands of dollars of more pesticides. Many bats also serve as pollinators--so there's a double-whammy effect.

As the article at Popular Science points out, our scientists don't have an answer, yet. They have asked folks to hang bat houses because at least new or cleaned bat houses wouldn't be currently hosting a White Nose Fungus. So if your home is your own and you have a spot you can hang one, please consider making space for a few bats. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll clean out your mosquitoes. Worth a try, right?

Thanks for reading--and passing this one on.
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