Austin Bats In Danger?

English: Emergence of the bats of the Congress...
English: Emergence of the bats of the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas at dusk. Français : Émergence des chauve-souris du Congress Avenue Bridge à Austin (Texas) au crépuscule. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year some 100,000 plus people visit Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge to witness one of nature’s marvels. During summer evenings, upwards of 1.5 million bats emerge from the crevices of the bridge, almost like a black cloud, to feed on millions of insects. It’s a spectacular site that generates $10 Million in tourism revenue each year.

This summer it was confirmed by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services that the deadly White-Nose Syndrome (WNS) has made its way to Texas. This devastating and deadly disease afflicts hibernating bats by covering them with a white fungus, awaking them from hibernation and causing them to die from starvation. In other areas of the United States, over 95 percent of the bat populations have been wiped out because of WNS.

With White-Nose Syndrome now in Texas, are the Austin bats in danger?

White-Nose Syndrome: Are Austin Bats In Danger?

At this time, White-Nose Syndrome is not believed to affect Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge bats. The reason being is that WNS has only been shown to affect hibernating bats. The bats at Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge are Mexican free-tailed bats; bats that do not hibernate and that are active year-round. It’s important to note that the full potential impact of WNS on Mexican free-tailed bats, and all bats in Texas, is still unknown.

Scientists do fear for other bat species in Texas. The deadly WNS can be spread bat-to-bat.  Mexican Free-tailed bats do share their winter and summer ranges with many hibernating species, including the Cave Myotis bat and little brown bat. Biologists fear that migrating Mexican free-tails, even if they are not themselves afflicted by the disease, may prove to be carriers that spread the fungus that’s linked to White-nose Syndrome.

If this is truly the case and migrating bats can spread WNS to other species of bat throughout North America, then the results may be catastrophic; for both bats and humans alike. A single colony of bats will eat nearly 1.5 million pest insects a year; pests that destroy agricultural farming.

Please continue to get out to Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, and marvel at the amazing bats. There are plenty of spots along Lady Bird Lake, in the surrounding area of Congress Avenue, where you can watch the bats. Flights normally begin about 8:00 pm, and may last upwards of 45 minutes.

English: Little brown bat with white-nose synd...
English: Little brown bat with white-nose syndrome in Greeley Mine, Vermont, March 26, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

White-Nose Syndrome

One of the fastest declines in North American wildlife happens to come at the expense of the bat. It’s all because of White-Nose Syndrome. First discovered in New York back in 2006, WNS had spread to 28 different states, including Texas.

White-Nose Syndrome causes a fatal white fungus to grow on a bat’s bodies (the nose in particular) 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. Additionally, if the fungus reaches a bat’s wings, it interferes with flying, feeding, body temperature, and blood pressure.

As a result of WNS, it’s believed that upwards of 10 million bats will have died by the end of this hibernation; across all affected states and providences in North America. There is currently no cure for WNS.

What Can Be Done To Prevent WNS In Texas?

We now for a fact, WNS can be spread from bat-to-bat, but it is also believed that humans can aid the spread of the fungus. After spelunking and exploring caves in Texas, take great precautions to decontaminate yourself, and all your equipment, before entering any new caves. Decontamination protocols can be found at http://whitenosesyndrome.org/.

While exploring caves for entertainment, it is in poor taste to touch any bat you see. Doing so can further result in the spread of WNS; not to mention, bats can also carry other diseases like rabies.

While exploring caves in Texas, report any large-scale bat mortalities to the Texas Parks & Wildlife Division, especially those that occur during the winter months. The kills and spills team can be reached 24-hours a day at (512-389-4848).

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services has also joined in on the WNS fight, awarding a grant of $39,566 to the state of Texas for WNS research.

 

Pest Control Links Round Up: Halloween Edition

Jack_o_LanternPest Control Links Round Up: Halloween Edition

Scary Pest Facts – Happy Halloween!

In honor of Halloween, we wanted to share a few creepy facts about pests that can be pretty scary! More…

Creepy Halloween Movies – Tarantula

Clark Pest Control gives a few insights on the 1955 classic movie, Tarantula! More…

Have A Safe, Happy & Pest Free Halloween

Take a minute and enjoy a Halloween roach video. More…

The Scariest Spiders in the World

Nothing gets people on-edge quite like spiders. A popular rumor states that no matter where you are you are usually about eight feet from a spider. More…

Vampires In Your Bed

Bedbugs are like vampires but you can’t use garlic to defeat these bloodsuckers. Here are some tips:

Little Brown BatPest Of The Week: The Little Brown Bat

What better pest of the week for the week of Halloween, than the Little Brown Bat. While these bats are pest control agents of their own, eating millions of pounds of insects every year, they can also be pests of their own; nesting in attics, voids, and chimneys of homeowners.

The Little Brown Bat, with dark brown fur as its name suggests, is one of the most common bats in the United States. This bat’s fur glossy brown on the back; with an upper body that is slightly paler; with a grayish fur underbelly. Compared to other species of bats, the Little Brown bat is smaller in stature.

Over the last decade, it has been reported that Little Brown bat numbers have significantly declined due to White Nose Syndrome. This disease, which affects cave-dwelling bats, causes a white fungus to grow on the bat’s wings and nose. This fungus disrupts the bats hibernation pattern, causing them to wake up too early and eventually die of starvation.

Read more about Little Brown bats being in danger of extinction.

 

Friday Links To Pest Control News

Black Light ScorpionFriday Links To Pest Control News

Black Lighting Scorpions For Scorpion Control

Are you the adventurous type, always looking for something to do at night? Try something new… Try black-lighting scorpions. It’s a fun nighttime activity that can also help keep your home and property free from stinging scorpions. More…

Avoiding Mosquito Problems in the Summer Months

For some tips on how to keep mosquitoes from breeding, and how to keep these blood-sucking pests from biting you, click here.

Austin Bats In Danger?

Every year some 100,000 plus people visit Austin’s Congress Avenue Bridge to witness one of nature’s marvels. During summer evenings, upwards of 1.5 million bats emerge from the crevices of the bridge. It’s a magnificent sight; a sight that many are worried may be no more now that White-Nose Syndrome has hit the state of Texas. More…

Squirrel Damage

While observing squirrels on your property, be weary. These pests can cause some serious damage. More…

5 Tips To Control Colorado House Spiders

House spiders are some of the biggest and ugliest home invaders out there; and apparently they are a big problem in Colorado. Here are a few tips on keeping House spiders out of your home. More…

Western Honey BeePest Of The Week: The Western Honey Bee

Our pest of the week this week really isn’t much of a pest at all; but is considered quite beneficial to our ecosystem. I’m of course referring to the Western Honey Bee. These bees are sometimes referred to as European Honey Bees, because they were introduced from Europe. Most of us just call them honey bees because they create sweet honey—a multi-billion dollar industry here in the United States. Honey bees make their honey when they regurgitate nectar, adding an enzyme. In addition to making honey, Western Honey bees also pollinate flowering plants.

Generally speaking, Western Honey bees measure ½ inch to ¾ inch in length. They have banded abdomens, covered in a very fine hair, and are a combination of yellow and black. A single colony of Western Honey bees can reach numbers of 100,000 members; gathering in a hive. Each hive consists of a caste system with the queen, drones, and workers. The queen lays the eggs, the drones mate with the queen, and the worker bees feed the colony. It’s these worker bees that most of us encounter as they’re gathering pollen. These encounters can sometimes result in painful stings, leading some people to believe the Western Honey bee to be a pest.

Friday Links To Pest Control Information

Pest Control Links Round-UpFriday Links To Pest Control Information

Bless The Bats Of Agriculture

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Top 10 Most Bizarre Pest Control Remedies

These pest control remedies are just plain crazy. Wouldn’t it be easier to just hire a reliable and effective pest control company? You have to see these remedies. More…

Problems Caused by Bird Nests and Preventive Measures for Commercial Buildings

Birds can become pests when they create noise, damage property, cause fires, block ventilation systems, and spread disease. Here are a few tips as to how you can prevent bird nests at commercial buildings. More…

Spider Eyes

Here is an awesome article over at Thrasher Pest Control that explores the question, “why do spiders have so many eyes?” Very cool pictures as well. More…

Red Ant vs. Black Ants- What’s The Difference?

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a black ant and a red ant? Is there even a difference other than the color? Read more and you’ll find out the differences between red ants and black ants and where you can find each type. More…

Western Desert TarantulaPest Of The Week: The Western Desert Tarantula

If you live in the states of New Mexico or Arizona, or in Northern Mexico, you may have seen a Western Desert tarantula roaming around your property during the rainy summer months. This tarantula is often times referred to as a Mexican Blonde tarantula or an Arizona Blonde tarantula because of their tannish-blonde color. The male spiders may appear more reddish in color, particularly around their abdomens. They may also have black legs. These tarantulas can be huge, by spider standards, reaching body lengths of almost 10 inches.

Although Western Desert tarantulas are considered an eyesore to homeowners throughout the cactus riddled desert areas of the Southwest, they are not considered dangerous. These tarantulas can bite, and these bites can be moderately painful. They are also venomous, but this venom is not very potent. The tiny fibers on the tarantula’s skin can irritate the skin of both humans and predators. Despite these defense mechanisms, many people keep these gentle and docile spiders as pets.

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.