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Celebrating Bat Benefits during Bat Week

Posted by Larry Moore, USDA Forest Service Office of Communication in Forestry
Oct 24, 2018
Bat Week infographic
Most bats eat insects and contribute as much as $53 billion in value in nontoxic pest control. Graphic courtesy of USDA Forest Service.

On August 10 of this year, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue proclaimed (PDF, 1.3 MB) October 24 through 31 to be National Bat Week. The Secretary’s proclamation was followed by proclamations from the governors of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Montana, and South Carolina.

Secretary Perdue’s proclamation cited bats’ unique role in controlling the pests that plague our homes, agriculture, and forests. It also recognized the growing threats to bats.

“Recent bat population losses from White-nose syndrome and other factors require attention to ensure the sustainability of our food production systems, avoid additional economic impact on the agricultural sector, and protect environmental health,” Secretary Perdue said in the proclamation.

Bats sustain our agricultural economy through important pest control, pollination, and other ecological benefits. These are common concerns among the many government, private-sector, and public organizations that celebrate and support Bat Week.

A bat in a person's hands
Forest Service researchers on the Kaibab National Forest collect bats in mist nets to study bat health and behavior. Photo by USDA Forest Service.

“Bats provide incredibly valuable ecosystem services to our society’s well-being. Many agricultural crops and native plants depend wholly or partially on bats to pollinate their flowers or spread seeds. Bats also help control damaging or bothersome insect pests,” said Rob Harper, national director for the Water, Fish, Wildlife, Air, and Rare Plants staff of the Forest Service. “Addressing the decline of bats across North America is one of the most important conservation efforts that private sector partners, the states, tribes, and federal agencies can agree to and work together on.”

These partnerships are essential in addressing habitat loss and White-nose syndrome, which is devastating bat populations. The USDA Forest Service is engaged in research of its own in tackling these problems. Right now, the agency is refining new methods of tracking bat populations over time.

“We are testing whether ultraviolet light can help control the fungus that causes White-nose syndrome,” said Patrice Klein, a veterinary scientist with the USDA Forest Service. “If that works in the lab setting, we will begin seeing how we can apply this in the field.”

Mixed cluster of hibernating little brown and Indiana bats
A mixed cluster of hibernating little brown and Indiana bats in an abandoned limestone mine on the Wayne National Forest. One bat (just above the center to the right) is exhibiting classic White-nose syndrome symptoms. Photo by USDA Forest Service.

Scientists like Klein are also bringing their expertise to partnerships like the North American Bat Monitoring Program, which standardizes and pools data from its extensive partner base to get a big-picture view of the state of bats in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

The Forest Service also works with other agencies like the National Park Service to encourage safe practices to protect both people and bats, and to prevent the further spread of White-nose syndrome when visitors explore caves and other places bats might live.

You can learn more about how you can take part in Bat Week at batweek.org.

Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave
Mexican free-tailed bats exiting Bracken Bat Cave near San Antonio, Texas, home of the world’s largest bat colony. Mexican free-tailed bats are one of many bat species that contribute significantly to agricultural pest control. Photo by Ann Froschauer, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Category/Topic: Forestry

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Comments

Irene Gilbert
Oct 26, 2018

You indicate concern regarding bats. Wind developments are killing millions of bats and yet the US Forest Service and BLM are committed to allowing these developments on public lands. In Oregon, wind developments are allowed to kill 2.5 bats per MW of capacity of wind turbines every year befor there is any effort to provide mitigation for the kills. This number includes Threatened and Endangered bats. If you were really concerned about the bat population in this country or the cumulative impacts that are resulting in reductions in populations, it seems to me that you would be addressing the well documented destruction occurring at wind developments.

Ben Weaver
Oct 29, 2018

@Irene Gilbert - We appreciate the concern over the impacts of wind energy developments to bats. The agency uses the best available science to inform suitable locations that minimize the potential for impacts to bat populations. Our goal is to realize the positive benefits associated with renewable energy while mitigating negative effects to the environment.