Thursday, October 13, 2011

Bats and Bees

The other night I was watching a PBS program about the American bat. An alarming number of bats are dying because of White Nose Syndrome (WNS). White fungus has been found growing on their muzzles and other parts of their bodies. They normally hibernate deep within the caves in winter to maintain a warm temperature but the bats infected with the white fungus hang closer to the entrance of the cave. They have low body weight and exhibit strange behavior. They are known to fly in the daytime during cold winter days when there aren't any insects to feed on or water to drink. Bats are nocturnal mammals that hibernate.

The fungus was first reportedly growing on bats in New York. The disease has since spread all the way south to Tennessee, and beyond. The fungus is killing huge populations of bats. 

You may not realize how important bats are to our ecosystem but they really are. Without bats to eat millions of insects during warm weather we would be more susceptible to diseases like malaria and typhoid. Bats eat mosquitoes, and moths, and other flying insects. For information on bats and how to build a bat house you can check out Benefits of Bats here.

This mysterious fungus is spreading across the United States. 

For years, we have heard about bee colony collapse disorder (CCD) spreading across the United States. Millions of bees just disappeared. It has been attributed to a loss or confusion of direction, or disease, or insecticides or herbicides. Bees are also being attacked by mites which weaken and kill off the hives. This new episode of lost colonies is just one more assault on nature's wonderful little pollinators and honey makers.

You probably think I am being overly melodramatic about bats and bees but every living creature in the ecosystem has a purpose. Without bees we wouldn't be able to pollinate enough of our crops and that would cause a food shortage. Without bats we would be eaten up by mosquitoes and it would become unbearable to work or play outdoors in warm weather.

I worry about the world in which we live and the destruction of this fragile cycle of life we depend on. 

DDT,  dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, was an efficient pesticide used to control malaria and typhus in World War II but was banned in 1972 after an environmentalist movement. It was devastating on the environment, particularly birds. Bald eagles were nearly extinct until the ban. Their eggs were so brittle that they couldn't survive because of the DDT. DDT was linked to cancer and diabetes in humans.

Nature seems to be turning on itself and destroying the very things we depend on to help and protect us.

Pine trees are infected with pine bark beetles across the south. We used to have plenty of pine trees on the hill behind our house and the ground was covered with pine needles. I loved the pine carpeting of the woods underneath the trees. The trees are infected with beetles. Now, Magnolia trees, hickory bushes (aka Chinese privet) and brambles are springing up underneath the pine trees that were there when we first came here. The pine trees are dying out and there aren't enough pine needles to cover the ground any more so other vegetation is taking over the undergrowth.

I don't know how to help the bees and bats and prevent the pine bore beetle but I hope we can figure something out or else we will all be in trouble. Instead of using chemicals we need to utilize nature's help.

Other diseases are infecting plants across America. One is attacking azaleas and other woody plants and trees in our environment. It is called Sudden Oak Disease (SOD). It can kill oak trees, rhododendrons, and many more indigenous plants. I'm beginning to believe Mother Nature is out of whack.

I've also noticed there aren't near as many lightning bugs as there were when I was a kid. They're disappearing too. When the plant life, and the insects, and mammals start disappearing you know we're in danger.

We depend on this planet to sustain us and provide for us. We are nature's gardeners. We need to take better care of earth. She's all we've got.

An article was posted on the Rome News Tribune on March 12, 2013. Deadly to Bats Confirmed in Northwest Georgia

I found this in Salon on May 1, 2013.  How Neglecting Bees Could Endanger Humans

White Nose Syndrome Cure*

orig. 10/13/11 
*edited 5/16/15


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