Just as news of the massive bee die off is fading from the news (although not actually ending), news of mass bat deaths are just starting to hit the headlines. The loss of bats could be an environmental catastrophe, as they are the world‘s greatest insect eaters -- devouring up to half their weight in insects every day.
The epicenter of the bat die-off is New York. Reports started with hikers noticing dead and dying bats littered outside the caves where they hibernate.
The loss of bats is now at the point where researchers are expressing fear that an extinction is underway. The ultimate cause is unknown, although the condition has been named White Nose Syndrome, due to the presence of fungus growths on the bats’ noses and faces. The fungus is believed, however, to be only a symptom rather than the underlying problem.
Theories for what is causing the bats to die include:
- Virus and bacterial infections
- Pesticides, either due to the toxins themselves or because they’ve killed off bats’ major food source, mosquitoes and other insects
Bat die-off could have a major impact on humanity, including outbreaks of mosquitoes (and their related diseases like West Nile Fever, malaria, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis) and destruction of crops (which could be overtaken by crop-destructive insects).