The U.S. food supply has a new enemy and in record numbers, it's killing off an agricultural superhero: bats.
Why Are The Bats Dying?
The U.S. bat population is threatened by white nose syndrome, a mysterious disease marked by a white fungus growing on the bat's muzzle that rapidly diminishes fat reserves in the animal's body. It is unclear what causes it or how it gets transmitted, but white nose syndrome has spread quickly since being discovered in New York in 2006. Reuters says more than one million bats have died since then.
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service's map, Monroe County's bat population is suspected to be in contact with the contagious fungus. This is especially worrisome since southern Indiana is home to an endangered bat species, the Indiana Bat. Communities exposed to the fungus often face a 90-percent mortality rate.
Why Is Our Food In Danger?
Bats, like the similarly threatened honeybees, are pollinators. They help us get mangoes, figs, papayas, and other fruits.
But they play an even greater role as natural pesticides. They love to snack on insects that eat crops. Bats save the agricultural industry close to $22.9 million each year.
- Why an Epidemic of Dead Bats Could Make Your Groceries More Expensive (Fast Company)
- Saving bats could prevent huge U.S. farming losses (Reuters)