Bats mean big money for American farmers. Their nightly bug-munching saves U.S. agriculture between $3.7 to $53 billion a year on pesticides and crop losses.
A U.S. Geological Survey study, published in Science, put a dollar sign on the services bats offer free of charge. The study found that bats are high rollers in the game of insect control. But the researchers are worried.
Bats are dying off in unprecedented numbers. A bat-plague, called the white nose syndrome, has wiped out over 70 percent of the bat population in some of the 16 states and 3 Canadian provinces where it has been found. And the fungal disease is spreading west from New York, where it was discovered, into areas with higher agricultural outputs like the Midwest.
Bats in the Midwest are already getting clobbered by wind turbines. The energy producing turbines cause air pressure changes that damage bat lungs. They also smack the flying mammals out of the sky with their rapidly spinning blades.