• Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Our beloved bats are under attack and if we don’t do something about it soon, many of them will disappear. White Nose Syndrome (WNS) is a fungus that affects hibernating bats. First discovered in New York state in the winter of 2006/2007, WNS has already killed over a million bats along the east coast of the United States and parts of Canada. By the 2010 hibernating season, the fungus had been reported in 16 states and four Canadian Provinces and it is spreading rapidly.
Named for the white fungus that grows on the muzzle and other parts of hibernating bats, WNS has a 90%-100% mortality in affected hibernacula (bat hibernating sites). Once the spores are in a hibernacula, the fungus quickly spreads from bat to bat, killing the entire colony. The fungus mysteriously causes the bats to wake and move either to the entrance or even outside into below freezing temperatures. Because hibernating bats have just enough fat reserves to make it through the winter, the bats often starve having used all their stored energy just to wake up.
More than half of the 45 species of North American bats are hibernating bats. This includes the six native to the mid-Atlantic (see previous post titled “Let’s Hear it for the Bats”). Many scientists believe the fungus may be spread in part by humans investigating caves either casually or for sport.
So what does this all mean? Little brown bats are our most common bat in the mid-Atlantic region and they can eat 500-1000 mosquitoes per hour. If they have five, one hour feeding sessions per night, that is up to 5000 mosquitoes per bat. Let’s say there are 10 little brown bats in your yard. Now, imagine a warm July evening. You and your family are enjoying an outdoor picnic. Without little brown bats controlling the mosquito population, there could be as many as 50,000 more biting pests than there are today. I think I’ll buy stock in Caladryl.

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