- Hello Jeff - As I mentioned on the program last night,
90% of Connecticut's bat population is gone. It won't be long before New
York, Rhode Island, Pa, Vermont and Virginia follow suit. The Bat White
Nose Syndrome is spreading rapidly to other states and I fear next Winter
we will see it move into the midwest and south east.
- The more bats we lose, the higher insect numbers will
become. With increased insect populations, more and more pesticides will
be used. More pesticide means that more White Nose Syndrome will develop.
It appears we may be caught in a downward spiral of bat die-off, insect
growth, more pesticide use, leading to more White Nose Syndrome and more
bat die off etc and around and around we go.
- We could see a rapid extinction of entire bat species
across the US in the next couple of years.
- The alarm is sounding and time is running out - not just
for the bats but for farmers whose crops will be decimated by insects and
whose crops will need a plethora of pesticides.
- What endangers bat health also serves notice that it
endangers human health as well in the form of dangerous pesticides entering
- The bat is our best tool in the fight against deadly
mosquitoes and other harmful insects that carry diseases such as West Nile
Virus. It would not surprise me to hear this WNV season numbers of WNV
cases off the charts in States such as Ct, Mass, NY, Vermont, Va and whereever
we had a major loss of bat populations.
- The clock is ticking, ticking and will soon toll midnight...
- Fungus Kills About 90% Of Connecticut's Bats
- By Rinker Buck
- The Hartford Courant
- White-nose syndrome, the mysterious plague that is decimating
the Northeast's bats, killed off about 90 percent of Connecticut's bats
over the winter and is now galloping across the country so quickly that
it threatens the nation's -- and probably the world's -- largest bat populations
in the American South.
- Jenny Dickson, the Connecticut Department of Environmental
Protection wildlife biologist supervising the detection and control of
white-nose syndrome in the state, said Tuesday [17 Mar 2009] that visits
to 2 sample caves in Litchfield County in the past 2 weeks revealed veritable
bat catacombs. Dickson's team of wildlife experts found thousands of dead
bats floating like dead fish in standing water, or stacked on top of each
other along the flat ledges of the cave walls.
- "It was grim, and you don't have to be a scientist
to realize the implications for the environment inside those caves,"
said Dickson. "This is a massive, unprecedented die-off, with significant
potential impacts on nature, especially insect control."
- Findings by Dickson's counterparts in nearby states paint
an even more dire picture for Connecticut.
- Bats are migratory, and most of Connecticut's bats fly
there in the spring from hibernation caves containing hundreds of thousands
of bats in the southern Adirondacks, the lower Hudson Valley, Vermont and
the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. Scientists entering those caves
since February  have found 90 percent to 95 percent mortality rates,
with some caves in New York having death rates approaching 100 percent.
All told, scientists following white-nose syndrome have calculated that
up to a million bats have already died in the Northeast states.
- Scientists say that all bat species are vulnerable to
the fungus. Dickson said Tuesday [17 Mar 2009] that the disease has hit
hard among little brown bats and northern long-eared bats, which are the
ones most commonly seen in Connecticut, but that it has spread to other
species as well.
- Combined with the losses of bats that hibernate in Connecticut,
the deaths in neighboring states mean that bats fluttering over evening
barbecues or swooping down to devour insects over cornfields will be a
rare sight this summer.
- The syndrome, first discovered in New York state in 2006,
is a condition in which a white fungus coats the heads, legs, and wings
of hibernating bats. To fight the physiological effects of the fungus,
bats deplete their fat reserves before the winter is over, fleeing from
their caves in a desperate search for insects to eat. The ravenous, emaciated
bats are then found lying in the snow or clinging to the sides of barns,
and usually die before enough mosquitoes and moths hatch for them to eat.
- Scientists have not been able to explain why the white
fungus covering the bats, _Geomyces_, appears in the 1st place, but the
impact on the balance of nature is clear. Bats eat an average of more than
3000 mosquitoes and moths apiece every night. A large die-off of the species
will directly affect activities and industries that rely on natural insect
control -- recreation, dairy farming, and horseback riding, among others.
- Scientists working on white-nose syndrome say that they
have detected no direct health threat to humans. But they do worry about
indirect threats caused by insect-borne diseases, especially after an especially
wet fall and winter that produces favorable conditions for mosquito breeding.
The numbers of cases of such diseases as West Nile virus have been very
low in Connecticut, but scientists do not know how a larger population
of mosquitoes will affect human and animal health.
- Dickson said that her team of scientists will be helped
by public reports of bats flying in the daytime during the next 2 weeks,
when there are not enough insects for bats to eat. The telltale white fungus
on the bats will not be present, because it disappears when exposed to
the sun and heat. Reports of daytime sightings, or other erratic behavior
by bats, may be made to the DEP's number, 860-675-8130.
- Since it was first detected in New York caves 3 years
ago , white-nose syndrome has crossed state lines, probably carried
by migrating bats themselves. Last year , the range of the plague
had been restricted to the Albany, NY, area and western New England. But
this year  white-nose syndrome has been confirmed from New Hampshire
to southwestern Virginia. The spread of the condition to Virginia especially
- Crops at risk
- Ecologist Merlin Tuttle of Texas is a bat expert and
wildlife photographer who leads the battle to save the endangered gray
bat. "The number of bats that have died so far, which is probably
over a million now, will be dwarfed by what is going to happen in the next
few years," Tuttle said.
- "Virginia is right on the border of perhaps the
biggest bat hibernation areas in the world -- Tennessee, Alabama, and Kentucky
-- where there are caves with such large populations of bats we can't even
measure how many millions are in there. They spread from this area across
vast ranges of the agricultural South. Mortality rates like those we are
seeing in the states already hit by [white-nose syndrome] would be devastating
for the national bat population."
- Studies conducted by Tuttle and other scientists have
documented the huge value that bats deliver to farming and forestry. Every
June, over the vast corn and cotton fields of Texas, for example, millions
of corn earworm moths migrate north from Mexico, descending at dusk to
lay their eggs on crop fields. If left unchecked, these eggs would hatch
within a few weeks, and then new moths would lay additional eggs, multiplying
their scourge and smothering the crops.
- Using Doppler radar, radio microphones beamed into the
sky and feces studies of free-tailed bats, scientists have documented that
"high-altitude foraging" by the bats intercepted most of the
moths before they could land on crops, saving millions of acres of cotton
and corn. One study concluded that the free-tail bats -- there are at least
100 million of them in central Texas -- consume more than 2 million pounds
of insects every night.
- But this balance-of-nature act is not restricted to Texas.
"We have the same corn, the same earworm moths, the same night-feeding
by our bats right here in Connecticut," said Dickson. "And now
that we have this huge mortality of bats, [white-nose syndrome] could have
a severe impact on our crops, but we just don't know yet."
- More need for pesticides
- One scenario that worries wildlife scientists is increased
use of pesticides. If farmers see that a crop-eating insect has landed
on their fields, they call in crop-dusting planes or truck-sprayers right
away, which then encourages other farmers to order spraying. Without enough
bats to protect crops, farmers might be tempted this year  to use
more pesticides, a chemical chain-reaction that can affect people, wildlife,
and nearby streams, Tuttle and other experts said.
- Even if the cause of white-nose syndrome is identified
soon, the damage to the bat population has already been substantial. "This
is a species that reproduces very slowly and that lives very long for the
wildlife world -- many bats survive for 30 years," Dickson said. "Each
time you lose a bat, you're losing a very precious benefit to the environment.
It will take generations to replenish this bat population."
- Communicated by
- ProMED-mail Rapporteur Susan Baekeland
- This particular article highlights some rather far reaching
consequences of the loss of bats, which in many ways mirrors the loss of
the bees with colony collapse disorder. These creatures are exceptionally
- What the article does not fully address is the threat
of increased use of pesticides to domestic animals. Many farmers turn cattle
and swine into corn stubble fields for grazing and eating of ears of corn
that fell through the harvesting machines. With an increase in pesticides
on the fields this represents another concern as these animals can be poisoned
by the chemicals to eliminate the insects.
- Most fungi are opportunistic by nature, and that is part
of the complicating pattern with the bats. What lowered the resistance
of the bats that they are unable to fend off such a fungus? We hope for
answers soon. - Mod.TG
- The article above includes photographs of bats with white-nose
syndrome; they can be seen at
- - CopyEd.MJ
- Patricia A. Doyle DVM, PhD Bus Admin, Tropical Agricultural
Economics Univ of West Indies
- Please visit my "Emerging Diseases" message
- Also my new website: http://drpdoyle.tripod.com/
- Zhan le Devlesa tai sastimasa
- Go with God and in Good Health