With the vampire craze currently sweeping Hollywood, you'd think bats would be getting a little more attention these days. The flying creatures of the night are in trouble -- and it could cause food costs to go way up, reports Fast Company.
Bats hunt insects, and their eating habits are a major boon for both organic and traditional farmers. Reuters estimates that bats' total value to agriculture is $22.9 billion annually. The little brown bat, Montana's most common bat species, eats about 1,200 insects per hour and in one 2006 study, bats in South-Central Texas were shown to have an annual pest control value of over $740,000 (29% of the value of the area's cotton crop), according to Fast Company.
They also pollinate crops -- papayas, mangos, and figs all benefit from our furry flying friends. But a deadly fungal infection --something called white-nose syndrome -- has put the U.S. bat population in jeopardy. According to Reuters, more than one million bats have died since the syndrome was discovered in 2006. But researchers aren't sure that it's simply white-nose syndrome that's to blame, since European bats with the same syndrome don't usually die.
Conservation groups and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service are on the case, but consumers should also be following the news closely. If we loose our bats, it's going to be a lot harder -- and more expensive -- to farm. And that means higher prices at the market.