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Natural Awakenings

Fauna under Siege: First Birds and Bees, Now Bats

Jun 01, 2008 03:00AM

America’s biggest pollinators are sounding an alarm bell that has the Department of Agriculture taking notice. Bats, the world’s greatest insect eaters, are the latest to hit the headlines. Nursing females can devour up to half their weight in bugs daily. New York is the present epicenter of a die-off in six Northeast states that has scientists scratching their heads. Possibilities include a virus, bacteria, fungus and the destruction and poisoning of their food source, including mosquitoes subjected to new West Nile virus pesticides.

As of last summer, 25 percent of bee colonies in 27 states had mysteriously disappeared. Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that as many as 50 million birds annually die in collisions with 96,000 communications towers, 22,000 of which went up in the last five years. Cell phones, wireless networks and high-definition TV are responsible.

The Federal Communications Commission is now aware that in bad weather birds will circle the towers’ steady red lights for hours, before hitting wires or toppling from exhaustion. The American Bird Conservancy is partnering with the tower-construction industry on a flashing light solution.

With everyone’s food supply dependent on pollinators, we can all help by lobbying against toxic pesticides, providing bat houses, bird feeders and bird baths, and planting bee-friendly flowers.

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