Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Like Mosquitoes? You'll Love White-Nose Syndrome

Little brown bat from Avery County with fungus on noseEven with just a few warm days last week, bugs were already buzzing around in my backyard. And this summer's swarm of mosquitoes could be even larger than usual thanks to a new plague that's wiping out bats - white-nose syndrome:
Scientists are comparing this onslaught to the devastation of the buffalo, the passenger pigeon and the American chestnut tree.

And all the bats want to do is eat the mosquitoes that make us miserable and the bugs that damage our crops and gardens.
It's now moved into Virginia:
Virginia scientists check the bats in about 20 key caves every other year. The 2011 count began last month, and the numbers are bleak.

At Coon Cave in Bland County, for example, the number of little brown bats fell from nearly 1,300 in pre-white-nose times to 94 — a 93 percent drop.
What's the government doing to stop it? Not much. While local government spend an estimated half a billion dollars a year to fight mosquitoes, the federal government is only spending a little over a million a year to investigate white-nose syndrome:
Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity, a national environmental group, said the federal government needs to move more quickly and put up more money to fight white-nose.

"Four million dollars over a number of years is really pretty peanuts," she said.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) has introduced the Wildlife Disease Emergency Act of 2011 to better understand diseases like white-nose syndrome. But considering Republicans these days don't see danger in volcano eruptions, I'm skeptical about their ability to take white-nose syndrome seriously.

To learn much more about white-nose syndrome, check out National Geographic magazine's chilling article, Bat Crash.
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