What’s the News: Bats are an economic boon worth approximately $23 billion per year, and possibly up to $54 billion, to U.S. agriculture, a study in today’s issue of Science estimates. Their voracious appetite for insects—a colony of 150 brown bats eats about 1.3 million pesky, crop-chomping bugs each year—means that bats function as effective, and free, natural pesticides. How the Heck:
  • A previous study found that bats saved farmers an average of $74 an acre in pesticides (ranging from $12 to $174 an acre), across eight cotton-growing counties in southeastern Texas.
  • Using that figure as a jumping-off point, the researchers extrapolated how much the disappearance of bats across the nation would cost per year. They came up with the yearly cost of $3.7 billion to $54 billion, putting their own estimate at $22.9 billion.
  • That estimate, they point out, just includes money saved purchasing pesticides; it doesn’t take into account secondary costs, like the impact of pesticides on the environment.
What’s the Context:
  • Unfortunately, bats are dying at an alarming rate. The mysterious, as-yet-incurable white-nose syndrome has killed over a million bats in the U.S. and Canada since 2006.
  • Nor is white-nose syndrome all bats are up against: Wind turbines can kill them two different ways.
Next Up:
  • It’s not looking good for the bats. White nose syndrome may drive some New England species to extinction within 15 years, and the disease is still spreading.
  • Nor is there much money going into the hunt for a cure: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife service spent only $2.4 million studying white-nose syndrome last year—about a tenth of a percent of the low-end estimate of bats’ economic value—and research budgets for the disease are likely to shrink even further, reports Brandon Kiem at Wired Science.
Source http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2011/04/01/bats-worth-billions-to-agriculture-but-theyre-dying-fast/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&u tm_campaign=Feed%3A+80beats+%2880beats%2 9

There goes a large population of our crops and agriculture. Bats are one of the natures best defenses against pests.