Wild Fact #618 – The Dangers of Fungus – Little Brown Bat

Little Brown Bat with WNS - Photo from Wikimedia

Today’s Wild Fact is going to be a little different than most of the other ones.  This is because I am going to focus on a very important issue that is threatening the existence of the Little Brown Bat.   This wonderful little bat is one of the most common bat species in North America……….or at least it use to be.  You may have heard about something called “White Nose Syndrome” which first started showing up in bats in 2006.  Well since then over 1 million bats have met their fate at the hands of this deadly fungus.  We will talk more about this in a minute.  First let’s take a closer look at the fuzzy Little Brown Bat.

As the name suggests these bats are obviously smaller and brown in colour.  Like most other bats the Little Brown Bat is an insectivore which heads out into the night sky to feed on pests such as mosquitoes, moths, wasps, beetles, mayflies among other insects.  Quite often when they find a nice big juicy bug flying through the air they will catch it using the tip of their wing then transfer to a cup formed by their tail.  Naturally, these civilized bats will use their cup-like tail to feed themselves.  Here you thought they just ate bugs directly with their mouth!  What?  You mean they do that too?  Oh, the Little Brown Bat will use their mouth for smaller insects.  That makes sense since it would probably be equivalent to me eating rice with chopsticks – I know it can be done but it is just a pain!

As mentioned earlier, the Little Brown Bat is in danger and may become endangered very soon as a result of White Nose Syndrome (WNS).  This condition is caused by a fungal growth that forms around the nose and wings of bat species.  Apparently this is a cold-loving fungus and as such begins to grow on the bats while they are hibernating in the deep, dark depths of their cave sanctuaries.  So how does this pesky fungus cause harm to our beloved bats?  Well, it disrupts the bats hibernation period (the technical term is torpor) causing the bat to wake up too early and eventually starve to death.  Not only is this an unpleasant way for millions of bats to die but there could be some huge implications to the ecosystem.

Photo from Wikimedia

For starters, bats play a major role in keeping our insect populations to a tolerable minimum.  This could have major implications in the business of agriculture.  Not too mention, you will be swatting at bugs all day long.  Bats are also an important pollinator and seed disperser.  Are you starting to see that it isn’t only the bats we have to be concerned about? Don’t get me wrong, we need to be concerned about the Little Brown Bat which is on the verge of rapid extinction.  The mortality rates associated with this fungus are incredibly high so if something isn’t figured out soon then it may be too late.

I know I am usually the one preaching that humans shouldn’t be playing mother nature but we need to at least figure out what has caused this sudden development of White Nose Syndrome.  We may be obligated to do something in order to prevent the extinction of a vitally important creature to our ecosystems.

If you would like to help out the Little Brown Bat then I would recommend listening to the authorities about not going caving in infected caves.  We are unsure how this fungus is transferred and it would be terrible if you are the person responsible for spreading this deadly fungus.  As well, you may want to look into putting up some bat boxes.  Every little bit helps, right?

I know this Wild Fact is a little longer than usual but I did want to raise your awareness about this very important issue that is hitting Northeast USA and Canada right now.  If we don’t figure out how it spreads or how to prevent it then it is possible that it will be in a cave near you very soon.

Enjoy the rest of your day folks!

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  1. Emma Springfield 7 years ago
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