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Bats and White Nose Syndrome

BatsWhen we say “Bats” what images come to mind? Dark, creepy caves? Halloween? Vampires?

It’s no wonder. Our culture has certainly done its best to turn the Bat into a frightening little creature. But while Bats provide great campfire story material for things that go bump (or screech) in the night, they are also one of nature’s most effective pest eliminators.

We’re exterminators and as such, our primary job is to protect you, your family and your property from all manner of pests trying to claim your household as their own. That being said, it’s important to remember that just because a certain critter has no place shaking up within your four walls, doesn’t mean they don’t serve a purpose out in the wild. Bats are one of those animals, so when we begin seeing them die by the thousands…it’s time to take notice.

In the past five years, New England’s Small and Large Brown Bats have been under attack by a fungus called Geomyces Destructans. This fungus causes them to contract what scientists have named White-Nose Syndrome.

Geomyces Destructans begins to grow and spread across a Bat’s muzzle and wings, eating away at its skin. Eventually, all that’s left are fragile bones and scarred wings no thicker than tissue paper.

Unfortunately, White-Nose Syndrome does more than just damage the outside of a Bat. It also causes dangerous changes in behavior. It actually disrupts Bats’ sleep and hibernation cycles, causing them to become agitated and fly off with erratic timing, leaving their roosts during the day and even abandoning hibernation to fly off in the winter, an extremely dangerous time of year for them to be active given their significantly reduced immune systems during that season. Compounding the problem is the fact that Geomyces Destructans thrives in cooler temperatures (40 – 60 degrees), so it is far more likely to be contracted by Bats when they go into hibernation. The fungus then spreads quickly through the group as they roost wing to wing in their natural efforts to stay warm. Before long, entire populations are infected and wiped out.

Since the disease was discovered in the US in 2007, over one million Bats have died. A 2010 study in Science has even predicted that if no cure is found, the Small Brown Bat will be extinct by 2028. That statement carries serious implications for the agricultural industry as it is estimated that Bats are responsible for consuming approximately 700 tons of insects each year, making them extremely effective little exterminators in their own right; all the better because their services are free! In fact, that same study suggested that this rate of consumption saves the agricultural industry nearly $3.7 billion in pest control services annually.

We may not want Bats in our attics, but there is no denying they make up a large portion of our first line of defense in pest control and we want to make sure they stick around in New England for a long time to come.