Bats help manage corn earworm damage
A researcher has found that bats are a huge help to corn growers when it comes to pest control. Josiah Maine is an environmental scientist who conducted the research during the 2013/’14 growing season while a graduate student at Southern Illinois University. Maine tells Brownfield Ag News, “Our experiment showed that bats are pretty valuable to agriculture and provide a service of about $1-Billion annually to corn growers.”
Maine set up areas near Horseshoe Lake where bats were kept out of corn fields in southern Illinois – and in those fields, he says, insect damage from corn earworm was far worse than other fields because bats weren’t there to eat them.
He tells Brownfield that White Nose disease has decreased the bat population in eastern states and is trending westward. So, his advice to farmers? Maine says, “Give some thought to putting up bat houses. If you’re thinking of taking out a tree row to try to get a few more rows of corn just give that a second thought because there could be bats using those trees, you know, providing a service to your field.”
Maine also found that fungal diseases associated with corn earworm damage was far less in fields where bats could feed freely.