Animal Illness Threatens Farmers

A recent decline in bat populations across the United States is taking a toll on agricultural production, farmers and researchers argue. The population decline could end up costing farmers billions of dollars if the losses are not stopped, some scientists have estimated.
While it may not be immediately apparent, bats are vital parts of agricultural production across the country. The small mammals feed on pests and threats to farmers’ crops. Moths, beetles, stinkbugs, and other invasive insects provide a major staple to bats’ diets, and conservative estimates suggest that bats offer nearly $4 billion worth of pest control annually.
For the past several years, however, white-nose syndrome, a fungal infection that strikes hibernating bats, has devastated populations across North America. Largely centered in the Northeast, the disease has been spreading into the Ohio and the Midwest, and the South, and is responsible for the deaths of millions of bats across the country.
While researchers are still trying to understand the cause and spread of the disease, it has been significantly damaging farm operations nationwide. Farmers in heavily hit regions have reported significantly higher than usual pest control costs, as chemicals are now needed to control populations normally kept in check.
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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer