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Pennsylvania Landowners Helping Indiana Bat through 'Spooky' Declines

When most people think of bats, images of dark caves, vampires and Halloween come to mind. But actually, bats get a bad rap, and we often don’t know how important they are for controlling insects, pollinating plants, dispersing seeds and improving biodiversity.

Many of our nation’s bats are facing population declines to near-extinction levels, primarily because of disease and loss of habitat. One of those species is the Indiana bat, an endangered species that has experienced rapid declines since the 1960s.

Join the Bat Squad and Pull for Bats during Bat Week

Bats have quite the list of positive effects in our world, from the billions of dollars they save in pesticides to natural pollination and seed spreading. Bats eat about one-half of their body weight in insects each night.

We need bats.

In honor of our furry, flying mammal friends, consider pulling for bats during Bat Week from Oct. 24-31. You can make a difference, whether you get a group together to literally pull invasive plants to help improve habitat and food for bats or figuratively “pull” for bats by sharing why they are important to our ecosystem with your friends and family. And, the great news is that you don’t have to be an adult to help bats.

Brown Bat Found in Washington State Infected with Familiar Strain of Fungus

When a little brown bat discovered near North Bend, Washington, in March tested positive for White-nose Syndrome or WNS, scientists had a lot of questions.

The bat was found nearly 1,300 miles from the nearest confirmed case of WNS in eastern North America, so the most pressing question was about the strain of fungus causing this disease: was this a known strain of the WNS-fungus, was this an entirely new strain from elsewhere in the world, or was this the same clone of fungus that has been spreading throughout the eastern United States since 2006?

Learn How to Bee a Friend during USDA's Pollinator Festival this Friday, June 24

The best time to bee a friend to pollinators is now! Today is the first day of summer and the launch of National Pollinator Week, June 20-26. Around the globe, people are celebrating with events that emphasize the importance of pollinators and teach ways to save them. Here at USDA, we’ve issued the National Pollinator Week Proclamation and are hosting our seventh annual Pollinator Week Festival this Friday, June 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. outside USDA Headquarters in Washington, DC.

The festival highlights the work of USDA agencies, other federal departments and institutions such as the United States Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Smithsonian Gardens, and the U.S. Botanic Garden, who along with partners like the National Honey Board, Pollinator Partnership and University of Maryland Extension are working to address pollinator decline.

Rabies and Vampire Bats

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. For APHIS, changes in environmental conditions will increase the likelihood of shifts in the distribution and nature of current domestic diseases, invasive species and agricultural pests.  These changes will likely influence the dynamics of invasion and establishment of these diseases and pests, and therefore much of APHIS’ work. Understanding and adapting to these changes is therefore critical to meeting our mission.

Vampire bats rank high on the list of animals that scare us the most. Spooky Halloween tales of their blood-sucking, nocturnal, and secretive habits have likely led to their bad reputation. The fact that some also carry and spread the deadly rabies virus doesn’t help.

The common vampire bat feeds on the blood of Central and South American wildlife and livestock. They also sometimes bite and feed on the blood of people. Recently, vampire bats have been documented within 35 miles of the Texas border. This has caused concern and speculation about the potential movement of vampire bats to areas within the United States as a result of rising global temperatures. To gain a better understanding of the likelihood of such movement, USDA-APHIS geneticist Dr. Toni Piaggio with the Wildlife Services National Wildlife Research Center partnered with U.S. Geological Survey scientist Dr. Mark Hayes to analyze and map the potential distribution of vampire bats under various climate scenarios.

High Five for Pollinators: Busy Bees, Bats and Butterflies

Day and night, pollinators are at work all around us—and it's not just honey bees. Did you know that pollinators are responsible for one out of three bites of food we eat? If you'd like to learn more, we've pulled together five blogs from 2015 highlighting some surprising facts about these busy helpers and the many ways different USDA agencies, farmers, ranchers and other partners are working to keep all pollinators healthy.

Celebrate the Mysterious World of Caves, a Home for Bats during International Bat Week

What images enter your mind when you think of caves or bats? Many people’s initial thoughts center around small spaces, dark places and the misleading myths surrounding the world’s only flying mammal. Both caves and bats are part of a fascinating story found in your national forests and grasslands.

“Natural caves are some of the most unique and complex resources managed by the Forest Service,” said Cynthia Sandeno, a wildlife biologist for the Forest Service’s Eastern Region. “Caves are also home to many living things like bats that play a vital role in our everyday lives, by controlling insects and pollinating plants like agave.”

100 Years of U.S. Forest Service Research and Development

U.S. Forest Service Research and Development celebrates a century of existence this year and while we don’t all get the opportunity to work directly with our researchers and scientists, we all benefit from their contributions.

We are extremely fortunate as an agency to have our own Research & Development branch. It has allowed us to not only develop the science that we need to do our jobs but also to apply it to our present and future initiatives. We are a science-based organization and many of the solutions to the challenges we face derive from the team’s work.

Celebrating a World of Benefits from a Dwindling Resource

Tomorrow, USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is joining the festivities at the sixth annual Pollinator Festival in honor of National Pollinator Week. Bees, butterflies, bats, birds, beetles and other animals play a critical role in the production of fruit or seeds, including plants that provide our nation’s food, fiber, fuel and medicine.

An estimated $15 billion worth of crops, including more than 90 fruits and vegetables are pollinated by honey bees alone. But despite their value, pollinator populations are dwindling due to threats of habitat loss, disease, parasites and environmental contaminants. That’s why farmers and ranchers are doing their part to improve the health of pollinators while providing benefits to the environment. Producers have worked with NRCS to voluntarily apply conservation practices on hundreds of thousands of acres of land because they know people and pollinators depend on each other for survival.

It's Time to Talk about the Birds and the Bees -- and the Butterflies, Bats and Beetles

Cross-posted from the Department of Interior blog:

From birds and bees to butterflies, bats and beetles, pollinators are a diverse group and are critically important to terrestrial life on our planet. Without our help, however, their populations will continue to decline as a result of numerous stressors including loss of habitat, pests and pathogens, and exposure to pesticides.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to America’s agricultural economy and maintain the beauty of our iconic landscapes. Without them, we wouldn’t have most of our vegetables, flowers, fruits or nuts. Honey-bee pollinations alone contribute more than $15 billion in value to U.S. agricultural production each year, but beekeepers reported losing just over 23 percent of honey bee colonies last winter. Other pollinators that help sustain food production and the environment—such as native bees and bats—also are declining.