3 cases of deadly bat fungus in Missouri

Monday, April 2, 2012 | 1:19 p.m. CDT; updated 5:50 p.m. CDT, Monday, April 2, 2012

KANSAS CITY — Missouri conservationists say the state has its first confirmed cases of white-nose syndrome, a fatal bat-to-bat disease that has killed more than 5 million bats around the country.

The Missouri Department of Conservation said Monday that white-nose syndrome has been confirmed in three bats from two caves in Lincoln County in eastern Missouri. The name describes a white fungus found on the faces and wings of infected bats.

The conservation department said the disease has not been found to infect humans or other animals. Scientists estimate the fungal ailment has killed at least 5.7 million bats in 16 states and Canada.

White nose syndrome is caused by a fungus that prompts bats to wake from their winter hibernation and die after they fly into the cold air searching for insects.

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Derrick Fogle April 2, 2012 | 9:10 p.m.

This is really sad. Missouri has a huge number of really great caves, many of which are already closed down, or had access curtailed, just on the threat of infection. Now, with the infection confirmed, I'm afraid caving in Missouri will be all but shut down. I'm glad I've managed to see most of them already, at least once.

What's even sadder is that the bats themselves are under such stress. As creepy as they might seem, they are a very important part of our ecosystem. They provide great insect control, and we're gonna need that more than ever. Of course if we keep having (lack of) winters like this, there won't be much of an issue with them freezing or starving to death. Plenty of insects out there, even in early March, and... what cold?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 3, 2012 | 5:34 a.m.

@ Derrick Fogle:

I agree entirely. As someone who matriculated for a degree in a part of Missouri where many caves are located, this is a particularly sad circumstance.

Your observation about bats and insects is apt. If what we saw this winter for weather is about to become the norm there will be a greater than normal insect population each summer. We need all the insect-eaters, in healthy condition, that we can get.

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 3, 2012 | 7:27 a.m.

Ellis, are our honey bees OK now? They were disappearing continually, I thought, but have not heard or read that recently.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith April 3, 2012 | 9:12 a.m.


Your question is indeed topical: maybe you and others are familiar with the weekly magzine "The Economist," a brit publication read by at least as many U.S. and Canadian subscribers as Brits.

According to an article in the latest issue, both North American and UK/European honey bee colonies are in anything but good shape! While the massive die off seems to have subsided, colony strengths (numbers) have not recovered and the situation is such that just about anything that comes along could wipe out entire colonies. It's now believed by researchers that mites weren't the primary cause of prior reductions, but weakened colonies are now more suceptible to mite damage.

Of greater concern is the bees' exposure to insecticides.

Honey is of course NOT the main concern, it's lack of a sufficient number of bees to assist in pollenation.

[Just look at what someone can learn by subscribing to "Wall Street Journal" and "The Economist." Even Capitalist pigs occasionally seek information. :)]

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