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Posted Fri Jan 22 2010: from Chambersburg PublicOpinion:
Bats dying from white nose syndrome; means trouble for farmers
Biologist Jim Hart said a devastated bat population will cost farmers and impact water quality. Bats sometimes eat their own weight in insects in a single day. That's about 2,000 mosquito-sized bugs. "They are worth their weight in gold," said Hart, a mammalogist with the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy. "They take an enormous toll on agricultural pests. If they all disappear, that's going to be a pretty bad scenario." Birds won't immediately eat all of the extra bugs, according to Hart. Populations of farm pests will increase quickly and farmers will respond by applying more pesticides, some of which will find their way to streams.... Wildlife biologists estimate that the disorder has killed 750,000 bats in the Northeast since it was first discovered in 2006 in New York. An estimated one million bats overwinter in hundreds of hibernacula across Pennsylvania. Science is ill-prepared for the crisis. "In general, we don't know enough about normal bats to know what's different in sick bats," Reeder said.... "The loss of one species is a big deal," Hart said. "The loss of a whole suite of species is a catastrophe. It scares biologists." They joke about taking up a career that has a future, like computer science.
[Read more stories about: white nose syndrome, massive die-off, ecosystem interrelationships, pesticide runoff]

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