Nature’s Bug Zappers

Summer in Texas has some upsides and some downsides. One downside, many Texans agree, is the abundance of insects that flourish in the heat, swarming our picnics, backyard parties, and campfires.

Now imagine if, across the state, we had billions more insects than we already do. If this sounds awful to you, then thank a bat! Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), which are just one of 33 native bats in Texas, remove an estimated 6,600 to 8,800 tons of insects annually in the state. That’s over 13 million pounds of insects out of your hair and into the mouths of bats.

For those who work the land, though, some types of insects are much more than just an annoyance. Fortunately, bats love to eat many common crop pests, such as the adult stages of corn earworms (Helicoverpa zea) and fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda). A 2006 study estimated the economic value of Brazilian free-tailed bats in the Texas Winter Garden and found that the bats saved farmers in an eight-county area about $741,000.

Bat populations face a variety of threats, such as wind turbines and a disease called white-nose syndrome. The fungus that causes white-nose syndrome has been detected in 33 states across the U.S. and was recently discovered in six counties in North Texas. Check out the bat NatNews to learn more about white-nose fungus in Texas.

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