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Published April 10, 2012, 07:03 PM

Parts of the United States seeing decline in bat population

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - They may not be your favorite animal, but they play an important role in controlling the insect population. They're bats, and in parts of the country they're dying at an alarming rate.

They may not be your favorite animal, but they play an important role in controlling the insect population. They're bats, and in parts of the country they're dying at an alarming rate.

Bat houses are still empty awaiting the return of bats that have left for the winter, and it's place like this that scientist will be watching for what's known as White Nose Syndrome. Bats help farmers by eating pests but they also can pose some problems.

St. Marks Church in downtown Fargo is ever vigilant for the winged mammals that visit.

Naomi Franeck – Secretary St. Mark’s Church: “Like before Sunday Worship especially we're really. We do a bat check and stuff.”

In addition to being parish secretary she's chief bat catcher with her net close by.

Naomi Franeck: “We put this over the wall where the bat is and then we stick cardboard underneath there and then we trap it.”

In the Eastern US a fungus called white nose syndrome has killed nearly 6 million bats over the last 6 years and it heading our way.

Naomi Franeck: “You know a few less bats during the summer really wouldn't hurt my feelings too much.”

Erin Gillam – NDSU Biology Professor: “It's nothing good for us in terms of the bug population.”

Researchers at NDSU say bats take care of some big pests for farmers.

Erin Gillam: “Moths are the big one so corn ear worm moths things like that, tobacco bud worm things like that, these types of moths can do a ton, a ton of damage to agriculture.”

While most of us think of bats eating large numbers of mosquitoes the bats decline will likely not affect the population of the summer pest.

Erin Gillam: “It's kind of like eating egg shells, there's not a lot to them, so bats will sometimes eat mosquitoes but it's not something that they specialize on or anything like that.”

Back at St Marks they've learned to coexist even when one camped out on a speaker one Sunday.

Naomi Franeck: “It was a good Lutheran bat. It just slept through the service.”

Tonight from 7 to 8:30 at the Hotel Donaldson in Fargo the April Science Café is all about bats. It's open to the public.

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