Say the word “bat” and some people may recoil in horror. Bats are often-misunderstood creatures that prefer to do their own thing and avoid people. What often goes unrecognized is the positive impact bats have in pollination and pest control.
According to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), recent studies estimate that bats eat enough pests to save the U.S. corn industry more than $1 billion a year in crop damage and pesticide costs, and more than $3 billion per year to all agricultural production. In states like Texas where mosquito populations thrive, bats are an important part of controlling these pests that spread diseases like West Nile.
Bats also serve as efficient seed dispersers and pollinators, playing a key role in the environment. That is, until recently.
Beginning in 2006, bats in the northeastern US became infected with “white nose disease.” Named for the white fungus that appears on the hibernating bats, it has spread across the country. This disease has decimated bat colonies in over 30 states, including some species listed as threatened or endangered. In the last ten years, over six million bats have succumbed to the disease.
Shell has partnered with NFWF in the Bats for the Future Fund. The $1.36 million program funds efforts to curtail the spread of the devastating white nose disease.
NFWF visited Shell’s Woodcreek campus in West Houston to announce the partnership and show Shell employees the value bats provide.
“This is an unprecedented opportunity in the fight against white-nose syndrome and this important funding will allow for innovative research and solutions to be turned into actionable projects at scale,” said Amanda Bassow, NFWF Northeastern Regional Director.
“Thank you to Shell and our other funding partners for stepping up in the fight to save our bats,” she added.
Through the support of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, Shell Oil and Southern Company, approximately $2.5 million has been raised to date to help tackle the problem. Bats for the Future Fund programs will examine ways to prevent the spread of white nose disease, as well as how to treat populations once they are exposed to it.