When you’re walking back from that late T.A. session, or a last minute Sayles dinner, take a moment to look up on your journey home. Chances are you’ll see some dark shapes darting back and forth across the sky, almost erratically. The Arb is home to 4 species of bats (Little Brown Bat, Big Brown Bat, Red Bat, and Hoary Bat), and if you dislike flying insects or are a farmer, bats are your best friends. For the most part, bats are insectivores, and they are a crucial control on the insect population in Minnesota. Recent research published by the USGS estimated that bats save the U.S. agricultural industry over $4 billion per year by controlling key pests and the beneficial aspects of their guano. The problem is, most of Minnesota’s bats may be gone in the not too far future.
A recent disease called the “White Nose Syndrome” has been infecting and killing the hibernating insectivore bats of North America. The disease is called “white nose” due to a white fungus that grows on the nose of the bats in the latter stages of the disease. WNS naturally occurs in Eurasia and was probably transported to North America by humans. While WNS is naturally occurring, bat species in North America have never been exposed to the disease, and have no natural immunity or defense. This sadly means that WNS devastates whatever hibernating bat population it comes in contact with. It is estimated that over 80% of the bat population in the North East has been eliminated since the introduction of WNS.
Sadly, there is no cure as of yet for WNS, but that does not mean bats are helpless. You can help in small but meaning full ways! If you see any deceased bat, whether they have WNS or not, report them to the Arb office. Mapping the spread of WNS is crucial is the fight against the disease.