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Billion Dollar Bats

September 16, 2015

Busy bats are saving farmers a fortune by devouring crop-eating pests.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

Billion dollar bats. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Everyone knows that bats eat insect pests. But in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Southern Illinois University researchers describe an experiment to reveal just how voracious bats are.

JOSIAH MAINE (Burns & McDonnell Engineering):

We placed large exclosures over portions of cornfield that would prevent the bats from foraging and that would allow us to compare those areas to control areas where bats were allowed to forage.

HIRSHON:

That’s environmental scientist Josiah Maine, now at Burns and McDonnell Engineering. He says the corn fields that were denied bats had 59% more corn-eating caterpillars—nationwide, that would cause over a billion dollars of corn crop damage. The bat-free fields also had much higher levels of a toxic fungus spread by caterpillars.

MAINE:

It’s really a testament to the service these bats are providing to agriculture and how strong that service is.

HIRSHON:

 

 I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society. 

HIRSHON:

That’s environmental scientist Josiah Maine, now at Burns and McDonnell Engineering. He says the corn fields that were denied bats had 59% more corn-eating caterpillars—nationwide, that would cause over a billion dollars of corn crop damage. The bat-free fields also had much higher levels of a toxic fungus spread by caterpillars.