Thousands celebrate bats at festivals

Capital News Service
LANSING — Bat enthusiasts hope to see festivals celebrating the web-winged mammal in every Great Lakes state. The original Great Lakes Bat Festival started in Michigan, founded by the Organization for Bat Conservation, a nonprofit group to protect bats and teach about them. The festival celebrated its 15th anniversary two weeks ago and drew more than 3,000 people to Clinton Township. “We started the bat festival because we realized that it was really important to get all the agencies and bat experts together to educate the public and reach out to the media about how important bats are in the Great Lakes region,” said Rob Mies, the executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, based at Cranbrook Indtitute of Science in Bloomfield Hills. This weekend his group, the U.S. Forest Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources  are putting on one of the biggest bat festivals in the region: the Wisconsin Bat Festival.

Conservation in the Bat Zone

Capital News Service
LANSING — Michigan – Bat-ter up! You can step up to the plate at the newly renovated Bat Zone in Bloomfield Hills. We’re not talking new batting cages at a fun park. This is North America’s only sanctuary and education center for bats and other nocturnal creatures.  It is run by the Organization for Bat Conservation at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.

White-nose syndrome killing little brown bats

Capital News Service
LANSING — Little brown bat populations are unlikely to recover from a wide-spread fungal disease anytime soon, according to a recent study. And if other bat populations follow suit, say goodbye to your margaritas! Bats are one of the largest global pollinators of agave – the plant that tequila is made from – and are diminishing quickly in the U.S.. “White-nose syndrome is the biggest wildlife catastrophe in America in the last 100 years,” said Rob Mies, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation – a national advocacy group focused on the preservation of bats and based in the Cranbrook Institute of Science in Bloomfield Hills. Although the report focused only on little brown bats, the model created by the study could be applied to all bat species affected by white-nose syndrome, said Wayne Thogmartin, a U.S. Geological Survey ecologist and one of the lead researchers on the study.

Bats worth a billion in bug control

Capital News Service
LANSING — Bats get a bad rap, but a new study proves that they’re hard workers, and that the work they do is worth more than $1 billion to farmers. The study shows that bats play a vital role in keeping in check corn earworm moths and larvae that destroy corn, cotton, tomato and other important crops. It’s no news to farmers that bats are important pest regulators. But without knowing just how much bats contribute, it’s hard for farmers to confidently decide to reduce their pesticide use, said Christie Bahlai, a research associate at Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology. “Farmers are stewards of their lands and know better than anyone that many pesticides can be dangerous and cause adverse effects,” said Bahlai, “They don’t always know if the natural enemies will be sufficient to keep pest populations in check.”
“Farmers in general always look for alternatives to control pests other than chemistry,” said Jim Zook, executive director of the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan and the Michigan Corn Growers Association.

Holy noses, Batman! A fungus is killing bats

Capital News Service
LANSING – Hollywood superstar Ben Affleck is switching on the bat-signal for one his favorite species: the bat. The star of the forthcoming movie “Batman v Superman,” the film’s director Zack Snyder and the rest of the crew took time out of their long shooting schedule in Michigan to join the fight against white-nose syndrome. It’s a fungal disease that threatens the survival of insect-devouring bats that support a multibillion-dollar-a-year industry. Without bats, U.S. farmers would pay an annual $3.7 billion for pest control, according to a study by university and U.S. Geological Survey researchers published in Science. And without bats, Affleck – who portrays Batman in the movie – wouldn’t be able to don the iconic batsuit.

Michigan bats found with white-nose fungus

Capital News Service
LANSING — A fungus that has already killed more than 10 million bats nationwide has been found for the first time in Michigan. White-nose syndrome was confirmed April 10 in little brown bats in Alpena, Dickinson and Mackinac counties. It is expected to spread quickly through the state, said Bill Scullon, wildlife biologist and statewide bat coordinator for the Department of Natural Resources. The bats were found during a routine winter inspection done by researchers contracted by the department. Michigan farmers, foresters and homeowners count on bats as the primary predators of nighttime insects.