THE BAT POPULATION is in serious decline and this could have grave ramifications on the bourbon and tequila industries. Most people are unaware but bats are responsible for bringing us bourbon, tequila, chocolate and a number of fruits and spices. Unfortunately, for a number of reasons their population is dwindling. “Bats are declining extremely rapidly. It’s very, very scary,” said Brigette Williams, Director of Second Chances Wildlife. Williams rehabs injured bats and other animals. Bats act as pest control in corn fields, where one of the main ingredients in bourbon is cultivated. Some farmers even attract bats so they don’t have to use as many pesticides. “It’s equated that bats are saving farmers approximately $5.5 billion a year,” Williams said. “Which helps in Kentucky with the bourbon industry.” Bats are also solely responsible for pollinating the agave plant. “So if you remove bats from that scenario, you’re going to have to unfortunately have to remove tequila,” Williams said.
The small mammals can also save lives when it comes to the Zika Virus and West Nile. “They eat thousands and thousands of mosquitoes every night and we know that mosquitoes potentially can carry a lot of viruses,” Williams said. But because of human disturbance and White Nose Syndrome, a fungus that wakes them up in winter and causes them to starve because there’s no food source, they’re dying by the millions. Bats only give birth to one pup a year, so that low of a birth rate, coupled with a high death rate, is a recipe for disaster. A common misconception is that all bats have rabies. But according to the CDC, less than half of one percent of bats actually have the disease.