The Bats and the Bees

“We know the losses of bats in the West will be less conspicuous than in the Northeast, where thousands of dead bats are spilling out of cold, dark caves and across the countryside.”

Bees seem to get all the good publicity. In the past few decades, we’ve gone from fear of marauding hordes of killer bees to concern about the decreasing populations of the cute and fuzzy pollinators. But what about bats? These nocturnal creatures, who like to spend their days hanging upside down in dark caves, are creepy and scary. (Except, of course, a certain crime-fighting comic superhero.)

Bats have a good side, though. In their nighttime wanderings, they feast on mosquitos, including mosquitos carrying West Nile virus. They consume pests and insects to the benefit of cotton and corn crops. Recent studies estimate bats provide pest-control worth nearly $4 billion in the U.S. More importantly — to some — they pollinate the agave plant, the ingredient necessary for tequila. They do the same for Arizona’s official state cactus, the saguaro. In Austin Texas, they entertain locals and tourists with their evening emergence from under the Congress Street bridge. They provide similar entertainment in other cities.

Bats’ ravenous appetite for bugs, encourages many homeowners to make their properties attractive roosting places for bats. And there is no documented proof that a bat caught in your hair has dire, even fatal, consequences.

But now bats are threatened by the spread of white-nose fungus.

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