Farmers’ Secret Weapon: Bats as Pest-Eating Allies, Study Reveals

"University of Oxford Study Reveals Bats as Valuable Allies for Farmers on International Bat Appreciation Day"

A groundbreaking study conducted by the esteemed University of Oxford has shed light on the invaluable role that bats play as allies to farmers. Released on International Bat Appreciation Day, the study showcases how these winged creatures can aid in controlling crucial agricultural and forestry pests. Focusing on three bat species residing on the sub-tropical island of Madeira, Portugal, the research revealed that these bats were consuming a diverse diet, consisting of over 50 different species. Astonishingly, 40% of the identified species were confirmed or likely to be agricultural or forestry pests.

This revelation holds significant importance for the local economy in Madeira, as pests such as banana moths, which harm banana trees, a staple crop in the region, were among those consumed by the bats. Additionally, pests like turnip moths and the golden twin-spot moth, notorious for damaging European greenhouse crops, were also on the bats’ menu. Surprisingly, the bats were even found to feast on a parasite of humans, highlighting the intricate ecological connections at play.

Associate Professor Ricardo Rocha from the University of Oxford’s biology department emphasized the critical role of bats in ecosystems. Despite their elusive nature, Rocha pointed out that insectivorous bats provide essential ecosystem services that can benefit humans in various ways. He noted a growing trend among farmers who are now utilizing bat boxes to attract these beneficial creatures to their fields, showcasing a promising symbiotic relationship between conservation efforts and agricultural practices.

The study delved into the dietary habits of three bat species inhabiting Madeira: the Madeira Pipistrelle, the Madeira Lesser Noctule, and the Grey Long-eared Bat. Researchers meticulously collected droppings from over 100 individual bats to analyze their diet, uncovering a wide range of prey items including beetles, butterflies, flies, moths, and spiders. Lead author Angelina Gonçalves from the University of Porto expressed surprise at the significant proportion of agricultural and forestry pests found in the bats’ diet, surpassing initial expectations.

Capturing the bats for the study presented a formidable challenge for the research team, as the bats’ echolocation abilities allowed them to evade traditional capture methods. However, by strategically positioning themselves at water points where the bats came to drink, the researchers managed to collect enough samples to conduct their groundbreaking research. The study, titled ‘A metabarcoding assessment of the diet of the insectivorous bats of Madeira Island, Macaronesia,’ has been published in the prestigious Journal of Mammalogy, solidifying its contribution to the scientific community.

As the world celebrates International Bat Appreciation Day, this study serves as a testament to the intricate relationships within ecosystems and the often-overlooked contributions of these fascinating creatures. Through their voracious appetite for pests, bats emerge as unsung heroes in the realm of agriculture, offering a natural and sustainable solution to pest control. The findings underscore the importance of preserving biodiversity and fostering coexistence between humans and wildlife, paving the way for innovative conservation strategies that benefit both the environment and local communities.

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons

Matt Lyons is the founder of Forestry & Carbon. Matt has over 25 years as a forestry consultant and is invoilved in numerous carbon credit offset projects.

Leave a Replay

Scroll to Top