Bats have earned the reputation as a type of naturally-existing mosquito population control in some parts of the world because they love snacking on these annoying insects. On the other hand, there wasn’t much science to stand behind these assertions.
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Curious researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, eager to learn the truth, took a closer look in an attempt to validate these claims. They’ve published their findings in the Journal of Mammalogy this week.
Armed with the knowledge that Wisconsin-based little brown and big brown bats reside in a place where mosquitoes run rampant, the researchers moved forward with collecting fecal samples from each type of bat.
Upon collecting these samples, the researchers performed DNA screening to discern just how many mosquitoes each bat had devoured. Notably, the preliminary results of the tests provided some credibility to the initial assertions.
"Our results show that bats eat more types of mosquitoes, and do so more frequently than studies have shown in the past," said study lead author Amy Wray.
"While this study doesn't tell us whether bats actually suppress mosquito populations, it does create a strong case for re-evaluating their potential for mosquito control through additional research."
As it would seem, the results don’t prove that bats ‘control’ mosquito populations, but they do support the notion that bats eat a significant number of mosquitoes. Intriguingly, the bats devoured various mosquito species without preference.
"This study is the first step in revisiting important questions regarding the bat's role as a mosquito control agent, which could have implications for human health," adds study co-author Claudio Gratton.
Related: How a bite from a bat turned deadly
So could bats serve as a natural mosquito population suppressor, or not? According to the researchers, it’s too early to tell.
Nevertheless, the study serves as a motivator for scientists to conduct similar and more in-depth analyses in the future. The most critical question in the grand scheme of things is whether larger bat populations could help keep nasty diseases like West-Nile Virus at bay.
It ought to be interesting to see what follow-up studies may find as they attempt to answer this question. After all, the use of human-made insecticides has proven harmful to the environment time and time again.
Source: University of Wisconsin-Madison