Bats Are Dying in Droves—But Why?

There’s no question that bees are an extremely important part of our lives. And lately — thanks to the colony collapse disorder that’s quickly killing them off — they’re getting all the attention. But have you heard about what’s happening to bats? The often reviled flying mammals are falling victim to White Nose Syndrome, a fungal infection that has killed around 7 million bats in the U.S. and Canada since 2006. Last month alone, 10,000 dead bats were discovered in an abandoned mine in Pennsylvania.

Just like bees, bats play an important role in agriculture. They pollinate certain plants (most notably the agave plant, which is the key ingredient in tequila), but they also dine on crop-damaging worms and caterpillars, and pesky, disease-spreading insects like mosquitoes.

White Nose Syndrome is characterized by the white fuzz it leaves on bats’ noses and wings. It attacks bats while they’re hibernating, waking them up, then causing them to use too much energy and burn too much stored fat. They end up either starving to death or freezing to death. There’s no cure, no treatment, and no one knows exactly why the disease kills them.

Research is ongoing, and hopefully the puzzle will be solved in time to save the furry flyers. In the meantime, click here to watch a video posted by Scientific American on their website.