Biologists expect the worst for Michigan’s bat population

Written by: Lisa Stelzner

Primary Source: Daily Dose of Science Blog

I’m sorry to announce the terrible news, but . . . the white-nosed syndrome has been found in Michigan bats for the first time, in both the Upper Peninsula and lower Michigan.  Even if you are not someone who cares much about bats (or maybe you don’t like them, as they tend to get into old houses and roost in them), they are very important for our ecosystems.  Insect-eating bats can consume thousands of insects each night (just think of how bad mosquitoes would be in the summer without them!), and other bats even pollinate flowers or disperse seeds from fruit.  Also, less than 1% of bats carry rabies, and they groom themselves to stay clean.

Some bats are really cute, too, if you didn’t know!  Look at that one wrapped up in a yellow towel!  (Please do not handle bats yourself, though, unless you are a trained professional.)

Okay, back to the white-nosed syndrome.  This fungus, which has been spreading among bat populations in the U.S., causes hibernating bats in the winter to wake up more frequently and use up more of the fat they stored for energy.  If there are no flying insects out (because it isn’t late enough in the spring) when their fat stores run out, they will starve to death. The fungus is also very easily spread among bat colonies, and by any humans that are entering caves.

A bat scientist named Alan Kurta “compares the discovery of white-nose syndrome in Michigan bats to “every member of your extended family receiving a terminal diagnosis.”

“I think that this is one of the worst wildlife calamities ever in the history of North America. You’re looking at potential extinction of multiple species of bats.” ”

You can help the bats by setting up bat houses in your yard and reporting any unusual behavior of bats, such as bats flying during the day or roosting on the outside of structures.

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Lisa Stelzner
I'm a plant biology PhD student studying monarch butterflies in Michigan, but I'm interested in lots of other types of science, too. I am interested in how breeding monarch butterflies choose their habitat based on floral species richness and abundance. Few studies have been conducted on optimal foraging theory when it involves an organism searching for two different kinds of resources, and butterflies are an ideal study system to investigate this, since many species are ovipositing specialists and only lay eggs on one species of hostplant, but are feeding generalists and nectar from a broad variety of flowering forbs.