Will Bananas Help Save the Little Brown Bat?
In the July twilight, bats flicker between trees, zigging and zagging in a relentless pursuit of mosquitoes. A single Little Brown Bat can eat 1,000 mosquitoes per hour—the equivalent of an average man eating eight large pizzas in the same period.
The Little Browns have had a tough time recently, due to a fungal disease called white-nose syndrome, first discovered in New York State in 2006. Bats were dying by the millions in the caves where they hibernate over winter. The diseased bats had a white fungus on their noses.
Scientists identified the fungus as Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which also happens to be found on bananas. Fruit growers had learned that it could be controlled with a common bacterium called Rhodococcus rhodochrous. A grad student studying white-nose syndrome at Georgia State University wondered if R. rhodochrous might work on bats as well as bananas.
The test results are promising, and in May 2015, 75 previously infected bats were released in the Mark Twain Cave Complex in Hannibal, Missouri.
With luck—and a little help from bananas—we may enjoy many more violet twilights watching bats skitter across the sky.