White Nose Syndrome sounds like a really bad title for a documentary about cocaine addiction. I can however tell you that it has nothing to do with drugs. Sadly it is a disease which is spreading across the eastern United States and is devastating our bat population.
The following is from the National Wildlife Health Center
“White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emergent disease of hibernating bats that has spread from the northeastern to the central United States at an alarming rate. Since the winter of 2007-2008, millions of insect-eating bats in 22 states and five Canadian provinces have died from this devastating disease. The disease is named for the white fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, that infects skin of the muzzle, ears, and wings of hibernating bats.” and further, “Current estimates of bat population declines in the northeastern US since the emergence of WNS are approximately 80%.” More importantly they go on to say “In temperate regions, bats are primary consumers of insects, and a recent economic analysis indicated that insect suppression services (ecosystem services) provided by bats to U.S. agriculture is valued between 4 to 50 billion dollars per year.”
It is likely that we discount the impact of the loss of some bats to disease at first but when we take a closer look it becomes evident that there may be more significance than we thought. There is no doubt the range of 4 to 50 billion dollars is a huge impact to agriculture. Losing bats and their capacity to control insects represents another facet of the challenges that our industry faces. It may be a small detail but one thing I have learned in my journey as a VALOR fellow is that preparedness, attention to detail, and a willingness to look at problems from all perspectives will be essential for success.
Virginia Agricultural Leaders Obtaining Results is currently recruiting for Class II. Check it out, it might just be for you. Together we might just solve “White Nose Syndrome”