White-Nose Disease Could Kill Off Gray Bats
And that's bad news for economy, environment
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted May 30, 2012 10:32 AM CDT
This Oct. 2008 file photo provided by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation shows a little brown bat suffering from white-nose syndrome.   (AP Photo/New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Ryan von Linden, File)

(Newser) – Another species of bat is suffering from white-nose syndrome—and the fungus threatens the animal's extinction within just two years. Unlike other species suffering from the disease, gray bats live in caves throughout the year, and the disease "could spread exponentially through the cave," a Missouri wildlife official tells the Washington Post. It's not just devastating for the bats: They're essential to farmers, gobbling up some 223 billion insects every year.

That means the bats' loss could hurt the economy, not to mention the environment, notes a Missouri wildlife official. If gray bats disappear, farmers will need to use more pesticides. The situation is particularly tragic given that the endangered species had been "well on its way to recovery," the official says. Already, 6.7 million bats of various species have been killed by white-nose syndrome in just six years. But there's hope: Big-eared bats in Virginia are doing just fine even with the disease in their caves.