Bats play important role in agriculture


WASHINGTON, DC - Bats aren’t just hanging around here for the boo’s. They play an irreplaceable role in our ecosystems.


Food security. Environmental health. Economic boosts.


There are more than 1,400 bat species worldwide. But their extinction prospects only grow as populations continue to decline. And bats only birth one pup per year on average.


The last week of October was Bat Week and the USDA focused on shining a light on some of the contributions bats make to our food production, the health of forest and agricultural landscapes and the economy.


Food Security


Bats take the night shift pollinating our crops. They spread seeds that grow our food and fiber. As a bonus, bats are the only pollinators for agave, which is a key ingredient in tequila.


Environment


Bats indicate ecological health. They’re sensitive to land use practices, including the use of pesticides and other chemicals that may affect prey species. Bat droppings also make for a good plant fertilizer, once composted, and support other wildlife.


Economy


Nearly 70 percent of bat species feed on nocturnal insects. There are also carnivorous bats that eat harmful rodents. By eating pests, bats save producers more than $1 billion per year in crop damage and pesticide costs.


More than 30 bat species are listed under the Endangered Species Act and threatened by White-Nose Syndrome, habitat loss, pesticide use, climate change, damage to roost and forage sites and many other fears.


Did you know? Farmers, ranchers and private landowners are playing a key role in helping bats. USDA offers a variety of conservation programs to help producers improve habitat through better forest management. Agricultural producers can learn more at their local USDA Service Center.


Jocelyn Benjamin is a Public Affairs Specialist with the FPAC Business Center.

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