Nasty Mold Fungus May Be Killing Thousands Of US Bats
by Will Dunham
WASHINGTON, October 31, 2008 - A previously unknown fungus that thrives in
chilly temperatures may be the culprit behind the deaths of at least 100,000
bats hibernating in caves in the northeastern United States, scientists said
on October 30, 2008.
The fungus is a white, powdery-looking organism found on the muzzles, ears
and wings of dead and dying bats hibernating in caves in New York state,
Maine, Vermont and Connecticut in the past two years, they wrote in the
"Essentially, hibernating bats are getting mouldy as they hang from their
cave ceiling," David Blehert, a microbiologist with the US Geological Survey
who led the study, said in a telephone interview.
"It's decimating the cave-bat populations," he said.
Bats play a vital role in keeping down insect populations, pollinating
plants and spreading around plant seeds.
The disease is affecting all six species of hibernating cave bats in the
northeastern United States -- little brown bats, big brown bats, northern
bats, tricoloured bats, Indiana bats and the small-footed myotis, Blehert
At least 100,000 and perhaps as many as 200,000 bats have died since the
so-called white-nose syndrome linked to the fungus first appeared in the
winter of 2006-2007, he said.
The fungus was found to have colonized the skin of about 90 percent of the
117 bats examined after they died.
Migratory tree bats, which live in the same region but fly to warmer locales
in the winter rather than hibernating in caves, have not been affected,
Based on bat population counts done in two caves in New York state, the
disease may be killing off more than three quarters of the winged mammals as
The culprit may be a previously unknown species of the fungi genus Geomyces,
which is present in soil and eats organic matter. The new one thrives in
temperatures like those seen in caves, 36 to 59 degrees Fahrenheit (2 to 15
The scientists said they have not yet determined whether this fungus is the
only factor in the bat deaths. Most of the bats also are emaciated.
They are trying to learn whether the disease emerged because the fungus
somehow was introduced into the caves, or whether it already was there and
began harming bats only after the animals were weakened by some other
The researchers likened the threat to that posed by another fungus that
causes a skin infection and is linked to large declines in amphibian
mold consultants Phillip Fry and
Divine Montero to find
air conditioning mold,
and mold hidden inside the walls, ceilings, floors, crawl space, attic,
and basement of your house, condominium, workplace, or other building.
Mold Inspector Directory
Industrial Hygienist Training
Industrial Hygienist Directory
Building Mold Inspection