Bats Are In Trouble. That’s Bad For Anyone Who Likes Mezcal, Rice Or Avocado

"Some of our favorite foods and drinks rely on these oft-misunderstood mammals, which are facing multiple threats".

"If you’ve ever enjoyed coffee, tomatoes, corn, bananas, mangoes, walnuts, chocolate, tequila or mezcal, you may just owe bats a thank-you.

While bats are often the subject of fear and scorn – they’re fixtures in Halloween decor and haunted-house imagery, and are frequently portrayed as harbingers of doom – their presence is often a sign of a thriving ecosystem. Some of our favorite food and drinks would be much less plentiful, or even nonexistent, without them.

Bats play a few significant roles in human food systems. Some serve as a form of natural pest control by feeding on insects that can destroy crops like corn and pecans. Others pollinate species like bananas, coconuts, avocados and agave, a role many people associate with bees and butterflies. And some fruit-eating bats help maintain wild plant populations through seed dispersal – think mangoes, cashews, figs and almonds.

Despite all the ways that bats help ecosystems thrive, “they often get forgotten” in conservation conversations, and in people’s estimations of what it takes to maintain sustainable food systems, said Kristen Lear, who works at Bat Conservation International. Whether it’s because we just don’t notice bats (as nocturnal animals, they’re certainly not easy to observe) or because we tend to associate them with dark and spooky things, bats are rarely championed. But as threats from habitat destruction, disease and climate change mount, it’s time that changed."

Whitney Bauck reports for the Guardian March 21, 2024.

Source: Guardian, 03/22/2024