Deadly Bat Plague Spreads

Fewer bats could impact harvests
By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2009 3:58 AM CST
Al Hicks of the Department of Environmental Conservation photographs hibernating bats in an abandoned mine in Rosendale, N.Y.   (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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(Newser) – A mysterious disorder decimating the bat population in upstate New York has spread through the northeast and could be headed across the nation. The disease, called white nose syndrome after the white smudges found on infected bats, has spread to six states in two years, killing hundreds of thousands of hibernating bats, reports AP. The malady rouses bats from hibernation early as they burn through fat stores and they head into winter weather to search in vain for insects.

"The cause for concern is that this is going to race across the country faster than we can come up with a solution," said a New York wildlife biologist. The illness poses no direct threat to humans, but bats play a crucial ecological role, eating millions of insects that would otherwise destroy crops. (Read more bats stories.)