Why Are Bats Dying?

English: Little brown bat with white-nose synd...

Creepy!

Sinister!

Blood-sucking devil birds!

Winged spawn of Satan!

These are just a few words some of us might mistakenly use to describe the bat; but despite this fictitious reputation, bats are vital to the ecosystem. They are pest control agents; eating disease-carrying insects like mosquitoes, and feeding on crop-damaging caterpillars and worms. They also aid in the pollinating of certain plants.

It’s because of their vital ecological importance, bat-lovers and scientists alike are in panic mode over massive loss of these flying mammals. Bats are dying off at an alarming rate.

Just how big of a bat loss are we talking?

Last year, NASA reported the North American bat’s death toll surpassed the 7 Million mark. A year later, it is feared that the death toll may be reaching 10 Million. United States Fish & Wildlife Services fear that “half the bat species in the United States could be wiped out if something is not done.”

What exactly is killing off all of these bats?

White-Nose Syndrome Killing Off Bats

Despite some bat’s white-nosed appearance, they have not been out partying with Lindsay Lohan. The white substance appearing on affected bats is a white fungus (Pseudogymnoascus destructans). This symptom is called White-Nose Syndrome (WNS). A deadly white fungus will grow on bat’s noses, bodies, and wings as they hibernate in caves for the winter. The fungus causes the hibernating bats to wake during the winter months. When awake, the bats will burn up all of their energy reserves that are usually saved when they hibernate. Due to lack of energy and nutrition, the affected bats ultimately die of starvation. The fungus is also deadly when it spreads to a bat’s wings. Healthy wing membranes are vital to bats, as they help regulate body temperature, blood pressure, water balance and gas exchange—not to mention the ability to fly and to feed.

The White-Nose Syndrome fungus was first discovered back in 2006, in the caves of New York. It has since spread to some 28 U.S. States. It’s believed that the fungus was brought over from Europe, where WNS didn’t seem to have the same affect as it has on the 26 different species of hibernating North American bats.

America’s most common species of bat, the little brown bat, has been hit the hardest with some states reporting population losses as high as 90 percent. In certain specific caves in the U.S., the entire population has been wiped out.

According to U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services, this is “one of the fastest declines of wildlife they have ever seen.”

Current States Reporting White-Nose Syndrome

As of June 2013, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services report that 28 states have confirmed the deadly bat disease, White-Nose Syndrome. This is a drastic increase from 2007 when New York was the only state to report WNS. Current states affected include:
[column-group]
[column]

  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nebraska 

[/column]
[column]

  • New Jersey
  • Missouri
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin 

[/column]
[/column-group]

To help out our bat friends, and combat WNS, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services has awarded grants totaling almost $1 Million to the 28 affected states.

Bat with White-nose Syndrome

Can Humans Catch White-Nose Syndrome?

It is common believe among scientists and researchers that bat-to-bat transmission is the principal aspect in the spread of White Nose Syndrome. Furthermore, research also suggests that the disease can ONLY be spread bat-to-bat. It is, however, believed that WNS fungus can be spread by humans from infected sites to clean sites through contaminated shoes, clothing, and equipment.

As for humans catching White-Nose Syndrome, it is highly unlikely. According to whitenosesyndrome.org, thousands of people have visited affected caves and mines since the disease was first observed. There have been no reported human illnesses attributable to WNS.

We are still learning about WNS, but we know of no risk to humans from contact with WNS-affected bats. However, we urge taking precautions and not exposing yourself to WNS. Biologists and researchers use protective clothing when entering caves or handling bats.

Currently, there is no known cure for White-Nose Syndrome.

How Loss Of Bats Hurts Agriculture

The economic consequences of losing up to 10 Million could be substantial. A single colony of 150 big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) has been estimated to eat nearly 1.3 million pest insects each year, possibly contributing to the disruption of population cycles of agricultural pests. That means that over 1500 metric tons of insect pests are no longer being consumed by bats in the affected areas.

It’s suggested that loss of bats in North America could lead to agricultural losses estimated at more than $3.7 Billion a year.

What Can Be Done To Save Bats From White-Nose Syndrome

In general, fungus is spread through direct contact with fungal spores. Humans are urged to not share clothing, shoes, pillowcases, etc., stay away from stray animals, take care of personal equipment, and wear flip flops in public showers to avoid contact with fungal spores of any kind. In general, its in good taste to not touch bats while spelunking for both the bat’s health, and your own.

Unfortunately, bats cannot put on little rubber gloves and other protective clothing to avoid contact with fungal spores. On the plus side, recent research has found that the fungus may respond to typical human anti-fungal treatments. More studies are being undertaken to determine how best to use this knowledge.

 

Hobo Spider Myth

Last night I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed when I stumbled upon a supposed “USA Spider Chart.” The chart, which is shown below, has numerous false and erroneous spider accusations; something the spider must be well acquainted with by now. One such error happened to be that the Hobo Spider is a deadly and dangerous spider, grouped together with the Black Widow spider and the Brown Recluse spider. See for yourself:

USA Spider Chart
Source: (Facebook.com)

 

THIS INFORMATION IS WRONG! The Hobo spider that is found in the United States is not deadly, and is not as dangerous as the Black Widow or Brown Recluse. Let’s clear up this common misconception about the misunderstood Hobo spider.

Are Hobo Spiders Dangerous?

Many of us cower in fear at the thought of a spider. If there is even an inkling that the spider might be lethal, we’d run screaming the other direction looking for the nearest flamethrower to take the spider out. It is misconceptions, like that of the Hobo spider, that lead many of us to feel the way we do about spiders.

Hobo SpiderHobo spiders are not deadly. Hobo spiders are not dangerous. In fact, a recent study from The National Center for Biotechnology Information and The US National Library of Medicine states that the Hobo spider is relatively harmless.

It was believed for a long time that Hobo spider bites can leave a necrotic (rotting flesh) wound that progresses over several days—similar to that caused by a Brown Recluse spider bite. In the study entitled The Misdiagnosis of Spider Bites, the venom from a Hobo spider was shown to not produce necrosis in humans, and in didn’t even produce necrosis in rabbits; which was believed to be the case after an earlier study on rabbits was released decades earlier.

Additionally, the study found Hobo spider venom was not deleterious, harmful, dangerous, or toxic to ANY vertebrate red blood cells.

It’s important to note that the Hobo spiders mentioned in the studies and in this blog post are the Hobos that are commonly found in the United States. Hobo spiders found in Australia can have a nasty bite.

How The Hobo Spider Myth Got Started

It’s believed that the Hobo spider myth started after the spider’s venom was injected onto a rabbit decades ago, and it caused necrosis of the rabbit’s skin. The above mentioned study proved the rabbit’s necrosis to be false, as the more recent study performed with up-to-date technology caused no such necrosis. The study also suggests that human related Hobo spider bites do not cause necrosis.

Hobo Spider Close UpI searched medical literature on Hobo spider bites, looking for instances in which a Hobo spider has caused necrosis or death, and found very little. I did find one case of a verified bite by a Hobo spider that resulted in a necrotic skin lesion, and this was in a person who had a pre-existing medical condition which can also lead to necrotic skin lesions.

The funny thing is that mites, fleas, bed bugs, soft ticks, hard ticks, conenose bugs, and kissing bugs would be far more likely to cause necrotic-type wounds than a Hobo spider bite; pests that don’t have the same rap as spiders do.

As far as I can tell, this Hobo Spider myth got started by fear mongering arachnaphobs perpetrating more spider hate.

Identifying A Hobo Spider

If you are resident of the Pacific Northwest, you are very well acquainted with the Hobo spider… or at least you think you are. The fact is that most people in the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah, in which the species is commonly found, refer to any big spider they see as a Hobo spider. As spider control professionals, we have found that many well-intentioned people call non-Hobo spiders as Hobo spiders. Giant House spiders are commonly confused for hobo spiders.

The truth is that Hobo spiders are very difficult to identify by the naked eye. Some people use a spider’s coloration to determine the species. The problem with this is that similar spider species often times overlap in their appearance with Hobos. Even experienced arachnologists have a difficult time identifying Hobo spiders, and rely heavily on hand lenses and microscopes to identify them.

True Hobo spiders are brown, with a large abdomen, and measure in length from 1/4th to 5/8 of an inch long. One of the easiest ways to determine if a spider is indeed a Hobo spider is to look at it’s web-building. Hobo spiders build funnel webs. To identify a Hobo spider with 100% accuracy, the spider in question must have its eyes and reproductive structures examined by an experienced entomologist.

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Pest Of The Week: The Hobo Spider

 

Hobo Spider Close Up

Grayish brown in color, with dark zigzag stripes, the Hobo spider is an aggressive spider found in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Northern California, Idaho, and British Colombia). It is suggested that these spiders are so aggressive because they have such poor eyesight. They have to attack things that move, or else they would starve.

With their impressive leg span, these spiders can reach a diameter of 1 ½ inches. They build funnel shaped webs, with oval openings, near the foundation of your home; and will aggressively attack anything that disturbs its web.

Although Hobo spiders aggressively bite, their bites are not as dangerous as once believed. There are many misconceptions out there regarding the lethality of the Hobo spider; comparing it to the more dangerous Black Widow spider and Brown Recluse spider. These rumors have recently been debunked.

 

Scorpions in Washington Home

Did you know that there are scorpions in the State of Washington?

Well this information came as a real surprise when Matt McGee, editor of Search Engine Land, found one in his home! The Northern Scorpion rarely invades homes and is actually a very rare find, but yes, Washington has scorpions.

Northern Scorpion found in Washington

Matt’s Email:

Last night, we were shocked to find a small scorpion inside our house. It was no more than 1.5 or maybe 2 inches. Might’ve been a baby. It was sitting in the glass portion of a picture frame that was at the bottom of a small pile of frames.

We didn’t even think scorpions live up here, but sure enough:

http://www.bentler.us/eastern-washington/animals/arachnids/northern-scorpion.aspx

We killed it and we’re having pest control come next week, but they’re not even sure they have chemicals to keep scorpions away. They were as shocked as us to hear about a scorpion in this area.

My questions:

* Are these things fast? Do they jump? I know nothing about them.

* Can they kill you?

* Do they bite or sting? Do they use the tail or the claws? Both?

* What do we do if we see another one?

* What if someone gets bit/stung? Do we go to the hospital?

Any help appreciated.

-Matt McGee

Are these scorpions fast? Do they jump? I know nothing about them.

They can be very fast. They don’t jump. They are pretty good climbers. In fact you can see one make it about 10 feet in a mere second or two here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29vayDJ49RQ

But really you need not fear a scorpion chasing after you. They don’t hunt humans.

Can scorpions kill you?

Yes, scorpions can cause death, but it’s very rare. In your particular case, the Northern Scorpion does not have the appearance of a highly toxic species. I don’t imagine that this species sting would do much more damage than a bee sting. However, people have different allergic reactions.

Do scorpions bite or sting? Do they use the tail or the claws? Both?

They don’t bite people. They can pinch but not likely. Watch out for the stinger. They will sting. I am not familiar with how aggressive the Northern Scorpion is but I can assure you that their stinger works. They most likely won’t sting you unless you aggravate it. ..or unless you are Mat S. in which case it might just walk up and poke your foot for no apparent reason.

What if someone gets bit/stung? Do we go to the hospital?

No need to go to the hospital for most stings. Some stings cause severe allergic reactions. If foaming at the mouth, uncontrollable eye movement, or seizures occur then go to the hospital. There isn’t much you can do to treat a scorpion sting. For sting treatment you can ice the area of the sting. You can take pain medication such as Aspirin or Tylenol. If sever reactions do occur you will want to keep the victim calm. Elevated heart rates will only cause the toxins to spread faster.

Can an exterminator get rid of scorpions? How do I get rid of scorpions?

Yes you can kill them and control them. Scorpions are very difficult to control because of their grooming habits and they walk on their toes. Cy-Kick is the best low risk product available. It’s less toxic than table salt to mammals. And grab glue traps and place them by entrance ways. http://www.pestprojoe.com/home.php?cat=285&rootcat=Scorpions

What do we do if we see another one?

Catch it!
Option 1- Paint Stick with tape. Take a paint stir stick, wrap the end with tape leaving sticky side facing out. Make the sticky portion 2 to 3 inches wide. Then you stick it on the scorpion. Pick it up. Put it in a plastic container. Make it now so that you have it ready. http://www.azcentral.com/video/#/Scorpion+hunting+in+Mesa/1680903532001

Option 2: Use a glass jar. Put it over the top of the scorpion. Then slide a piece of paper under the jar. Then flip it over. The scorpion won’t be able to climb out.

Then you are going to mail it to me. I will gladly pay the shipping. =)

…Or you can squash it with a shoe.

I will take them dead or alive.

Black Lighting Scorpions

Oh my gosh! Black light ’em! ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??????????

Never in a million years would I actively seek them out. I prefer to pretend they don’t exist. That’s how I got to sleep last night.

Sheesh.

Actually it’s a good idea. It will help you know if you even have a need to be worried. And I suspect that for the Northern Scorpion you won’t have to be worried at all. If you blacklight and don’t find any in your yard then you will sleep better. I don’t think your species infests homes, and don’t think they are common at all… also evidenced by the fact that your local pest control guys didn’t even know if they had products that worked for scorpions. Honestly, you may want to just buy the cy-kick and spray yourselves. At least email me what products they are going to use and I can tell you if it will help.

What black light should I buy to go scorpion hunting?

Do you have a recommendation for a UV flashlight? There are a ton on Amazon and elsewhere and I don’t quite know what I’m looking for. Was checking out these two:

http://www.amazon.com/LEDwholesalers-Ultraviolet-LED-flashlight-7202UV395/
http://www.amazon.com/UV-Blacklight-Flashlight-Ultra-Light/dp/B004S6JFWQ/

I’m interested in getting one for the amusement factor now as much as the scorpion hunting. Don’t expect to find many/any critters, but like the idea of having a flashlight around just in case.

I did find a plug-in UV light strip at Walmart today and used it in a couple rooms tonight. No scorpions, but DAMN is it fun to light up rooms with UV light!!! 🙂

Funny that Walmart actually took on that idea. I thought of buying the domain “Scorpion Nightlights” and selling them a few years back, but after discovering that UV lights are bad for your eyes I opted not to do that. So I would advise not having UV lights for night lights. UV can damage your eyes. A little exposure isn’t going to hurt you, but prolonged exposure, night after night, could cause some real eye problems.

As for the Blacklight Flashlights, I’d recommend a LED one. The LED blacklights are very bright and work well. You don’t need anything huge or fancy or extra powerful. The glowing scorpions jump out at you when see them. Scorpion hunting is a great nighttime adventure. I’d advise wearing closed toed shoes. A pair of gloves is useful if you plan on handling the scorpions.

Additional Scorpion Questions?

Feel free to ask me your additional scorpion questions. I am happy to help. Thanks.

Scorpion Control Resources:
http://scorpionreport.org
http://entomology.wsu.edu/outreach/bug-info/northern-scorpion/
http://www.bulwarkpestcontrol.com/science-scorpion-control.php

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