Where they are abundant, molossid bats can provide important service to humans by consuming huge numbers of insects that are agricultural pests. The 100 million Brazilian free-tailed bats that occupy Texas each summer consume an estimated 1,000 tons of insects each night, with many of these
insects known to be adult cotton bollworms, fall armyworms, and other moths that are major crop pests. The guano of molos-sid bats that live in large colonies is harvested commercially by local farmers as a rich source of nitrogen for fertilizer.
As with all mammals, bats can contract and transmit rabies virus. The rabies virus associated with Brazilian free-tailed bats has been implicated in the deaths of approximately
12 people in North and South America over the last three decades. Other human health concerns involve Histoplasma capsulatum, a fungus that commonly grows in bat (and bird) guano that can infect humans and cause histoplasmosis, typically of the human respiratory system via inhalation. The habits of molossids of roosting in houses and other buildings may result in human contacts and their risks of exposure to rabies or histoplasmosis.
1. Giant mastiff bat (Otomops martiensseni); 2. Greater house bat (Molossus ater); 3. Brazilian free-tailed bat (Tadarida brasiliensis); 4. White-striped free-tailed bat (Tadarida australis); 5. Lesser crested mastiff bat (Chaerephon pumila); 6. Naked bat (Cheiromeles torquatus). (Illustration by Brian Cressman)
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