I’m almost two months early with this post–most folks associate bats more with Halloween than with early September–but I’ve just read about an initiative put together by the US Fish and Wildlife Service that is attempting to coordinate state, federal and tribal concerns to help the six species of bats that are affected by white nose syndrome (sometimes called white nose fungus).
Since this fungus was first discovered in 2006 in caves in New York, it’s been found as far north as two Canadian provinces and as far west as Tennessee. It’s decimating our bat population and as most of my readers know, bats are the good guys! While they can be a carrier of rabies, so can so many of our other backyard species.
Bats help us in so many ways. First and foremost, they eat hundreds, if not thousands of insects a night. But that’s not all that they do to help gardeners. They are also pollinators of crops as well. Among other plants and flowers, bats pollinate agave–without bats, there will be no tequila!
Without the two important functions played by bats, gardeners and all agricultural interests will see a noticable difference in their gardens and fields.
In my own yard, my bat population has dropped off precipitously. I used to be able to stand and watch them come out of my bat house at twilight and streak off toward the street light. There are none left in my bat house.
When I would go out with my dog(s) I would occasionally put on a spotlight and I’d see multiple bats soaring high in the tops of my pine trees, presumably scouting for insects. Now it’s a rare night if I see one. And the mosquito population in my yard has increased dramatically.
I haven’t seen a noticable decline in the pollination of anything–so far as I can tell–but my enjoyment of the night has surely diminished without my bats. And with the decline in honeybees as well, let us hope this new initiative helps the bats get the help that they need!