White-nose syndrome affecting bats throughout the U.S.

Bats aren't as bad as you think

Kristi King | November 15, 2014 4:46 pm

WASHINGTON — The deadly fungus killing bats has now spread to Arkansas, Michigan and Wisconsin, among other states.

White-nose syndrome has affected 25 U.S. States and five Canadian provinces. It can kill up to 100 percent of hibernating bats over a winter in impacted colonies, and is estimated to have killed more than six million bats since first being detected in eastern New York in 2007.

A network of state and federal agencies is investigating and attempting to manage the spread of white-nose syndrome, but “we are nowhere near solving the spread and the mortality,” says local bat advocate Leslie Sturges, director of the Save Lucy Campaign.

While many people fear the fuzzy creatures, Sturges says they’re “not just useful, they’re smart, they’re adorable, they’re funny.”

“A mother bat who’s feeding her babies eats her own body weight in insects every night,” Sturges says.

That’s a lot of bugs when you consider the most common bat in the Metro D.C. area is the big brown bat that weighs about 17 grams — similar to the weight of a fun- sized Snickers bar.

Bats can eat up to 600 mosquitoes an hour. They help pollinate crops and consume insects that can heavily damage food crops.

Sturges points out that bats aren’t related to rats and mice. According to recent evidence, bats might be more closely related to primates than rodents. Bats are the only mammals that fly.

And bats excrete pretty poo.

“They actually have sparkly guano because of all the insect exoskeletons in it,” Sturges says.

Sturges is bringing live bats to an event at the Hidden Oaks Nature Center in Annandale, Va. next month. “Bat Fest” is a two-hour program that includes activities, a lecture, and a nature walk to spot wild bats.

Sturges also will feed meal worms to captive bats by hand.

The program is Sat. Sept.13. Learn more here or call 703-222-4664.

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