Just how much do bats help to control pests?

Bats play an important role in agricultural pest control.

Trio of lesser horseshoe bats in a cave in Somerset, UK. © Ian Redding/Getty

It has long been assumed that insectivorous bats are good for agriculture, but only recently have their effects been measured directly.

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Experiments in the US show that the numbers of corn earworm caterpillars increase by nearly 60% when bats are excluded from corn fields, resulting in 50% more damage to the crop. Not only do bats eat the adult moths, but they also seem to frighten them off.

In addition, the presence of bats suppressed harmful fungi that are transmitted to the crops by herbivorous insects.

Globally, bats could be saving more than $1 billion worth of corn crops alone.


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Main image: Trio of lesser horseshoe bats in a cave in Somerset, UK. © Ian Redding/Getty