Decline in bats means more insects in northeast Ohio this year

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-18 18:20:32-05

Bring up the topic of bats, and for many, they're tied to all kind of things like vampires or bad omens.        

But you may not realize all the good bats do for us. The bad news? Ohio's bats are dying, and that could spell bad news for our economy.

“They use that to stir while their flying," said Tim Krynak, Natural Resource Project Manager with the Cleveland Metroparks, point to the tail of one of is little brown bats.

He explained, for farmers, the winged creatures are more valuable than we know.

“Amazing animals, very adaptable animals."

Eating as many as 2,000 insects a night, the little brown bats and other species found in the Buckeye state are essential to our ecosystem.

"In the United States, they're the chief insect consumers...a lot of these insects are eating vegetation or feeding on roots during, throughout the year, and the bats are controlling those insects," Krynak said.

But bats are on the decline, Almost all of their population has been lost, especially here in Ohio.

We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in some more smaller bat population. We had a population of approximately 2,000  of little brown bats and lost about 95% of them. Last summer we had a counter maybe 25 those bats," he said.

The major cause is a fungal virus called white nose syndrome.

"It's worse than the flu, I mean if you get the flu some time to recover with bats most of them do not recover and that's the problem," Krynak said.

So, the fewer bats in our skies, the more insects on our land. A 2011 University of Tennessee study showed the economic impact losing bats could be as much as $53 billion in agriculture.

“So if you go from 2000 down to less than 20 bats, it's going to have an impact on the environment," said Krynak.

And while scientists are testing various anecdotes, they say it could take years for the process to unfold.

“The fungus itself is still spreading, very very quickly, and that's the large concern," Krynak explained.