DISCOVERY: DEATHS OF BEES, BATS AND FROGS MAY HAVE SHARED LINK

Gray Bat

Habitat loss, climate change and pesticides may be responsible for the deaths that are ravaging bat, bee and frog populations, pushing many species to the brink of extinction.

Last week news broke that the deadly fungal disease, white-nose syndrome, has attacked the already endangered gray bats.  The fungus boasts a mortality rate as high as 100% in some species.

This news as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) continues to kill honeybees.  Still another fungus has wiped over 200 frog species across the world.

Rob Mies, executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation, says, “It appears that many species are under an immense amount of stress, allowing opportunistic diseases to take hold.  Life is far more complex, so a single cause is likely not the only explanation for the bat, bee and frog deaths.  There could be five, six or more factors involved.

One of the factors may be people.  Humans may inadvertently spread White-nose syndrome from one bat population to another, Mies posits.  “Some of the first caves in North America to be affected by white nose syndrome were in very high tourism areas.  Somebody could have visited a cave in Europe wearing boots, and then brought back a tiny bit of mud on the boots containing dormant fungus.”

He further explains that the fungus is temperature sensitive and doesn’t affect humans and most animals.  But bats’ temperatures drop during hibernation, making bats vulnerable to the virus.

“(The virus) may eat into a bat’s skin, even putting holes in it,” Mies continued.  “The fungus can grow to a point where it winds up replacing the skin.”

Vance Vredenburg, San Francisco State University biologist, explains that the fungus attacking amphibians also attacks through the skin.  It can cause a frog’s skin to become up to 40 times thicker than normal.  Because frogs absorb water and vital salts through their skin, the fungus often proves fatal to the host amphibian.

Helene Marshall of Marshall’s Farm Natural Honey reported:  “The virus causing CCD came to us when US beekeepers were importing Australian packaged bees to meet the high pollination demand of the almond growers here in California.”

Other human links related to the spread of fungal diseases among bats, frogs and bees are spraying pesticides that may be absorbed through the skin, climate change, habitat loss and the spread of other health threats, such as viruses and mites.

There are some remedies on the horizon for bats and bees.  The US Fish & Wildlife Service revealed a national plan for managing white-nose syndrome in bats.  The plan involves diagnostics, disease management, disease surveillance and more.

Helene Marshall Is establishing more carefully monitored honeybee hives through her partnering with hotels, businesses and individuals.

For the frogs, no good news.

Yet.

Discovery News     June 1, 2012G

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