In spite of continued reports that bat populations throughout the Northeast continue to dwindle, it appears the bats at Better Farm are making a comeback.
The sharp decline in bat population is due largely to a bat fungus, called "White-Nose Syndrome". The fungus was first detected in New York State in 2006 and is thought to have originated in Europe, where bats seem to have immunity to it, according to many articles on the topic. The fungus appears as powdery white on a bat’s face, wings and skin, typically appearing as a white ring around the nose. It causes the bat to wake up in the middle of winter hibernation and therefore use up its reserve energy and die.
Since 2006, the fungus has spread to 20 states, mostly in the eastern United States. An estimated 6 million bats have been lost in North America so far due to the fungus, with some agencies asking that bat species once considered common now be considered endangered.
But why all the fuss? Simple: Bats are important predators of agricultural pests. One estimate suggests that North American bats help avoid more than $3.7 billion in lost crops and pesticide costs every year — and the number may be as high as $53 billion a year.
Bats also are predators of night flying insects such as moths and mosquitoes which I'm sure we can all appreciate—especially if you live in the North Country!
One of the residents chased a bat out of the Art Barn several weeks ago, which we all took as a great sign some bats had come back to the farm. Then a few days ago, one of the dogs here took interest in something on the wraparound deck. When I walked over to the spot, I saw a bunch of what appeared to be mouse droppings:
Some basic searches online showed that what I mistook as mouse droppings were actually bat droppings—proof-positive the bats have returned to take up lodging at Better Farm.