This morning I was browsing through the news, as I always do on my Yahoo! homepage, when I noticed a headline titled "Bat-killing syndrome spreads in Northeast". At first glance it sounds like killer infected bats are headed northeast. But what the article was referring to was the terrible virus-type syndrome that's killing hibernating bats - known as the white-nose syndrome. This is somewhat of a follow-up post that I did last year concerning this killer syndrome and its effect on bats (http://birdsnsuch.blogspot.com/2008/02/eastern-bats-in-trouble.html).
Many of you are probably aware, or at least heard of white-nose syndrome. Bats infected with this burn through their food reserves before spring, driving many to leave their hibernating caves in search for food. Most bats die as a result. The name white-nose syndrome comes from the symptoms that bats get from this disease, which is white spots around their nose and wings. This syndrome was first reported about two years ago. The first bats found infected were located in caves in New York.
Since the first reports, scientist worst fears are coming true. White-nose syndrome is spreading. New Jersey and Pennsylvania were named in the article but there's evidence it has spread into other nearby states as well. The good news, if there is any in all of this, is scientist have recently identified the fungus that creates the syndromes white spots on the hibernating bats. The tough part now is how to stop it from killing off more bats. It’s definitely a race against time!
Bats often get a bad rap as blood-sucking, rabid carrying little monsters. But that’s far from the truth. Bats play an important part in our ecosystem, such as keeping mosquitoes and other flying insects in-check, and some bats play an important part as plant pollinators. I welcome bats in my yard. I enjoy sitting on my deck in summer evenings and watch the bats fly around chasing insects. Sometimes I’ll turn on my backyard flood light to attract insects for the bats to feast on; and last spring I put up a bat house. Unfortunately, it hasn't attracted any bats yet, but I’ve read that it could take a year or two, so I’m hoping this coming summer will be the year.
By putting up a bat house you are helping provide bats a home for roosting and raising young. You will also benefit from having fewer yard and garden pests. Also, bat guano makes good plant fertilizer! It also makes a great conversation topic with the neighbors. It's funny to watch their expression when you tell them that it's a bat house. Oh well, nothing I do nowadays seems to surprises them, they just think I'm nuts.
If interested, go here to learn more about bats and bat houses: http://www.batconservation.org/index.html