- Published on Apr 04, 2008
- Contact Jim Erickson
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—If you get a chance to sip some shade-grown Mexican organic coffee, please pause a moment to thank the bats that helped make it possible.
At Mexican organic coffee plantations, where pesticides are banned, bats and birds work night and day to control insect pests that might otherwise munch the crop.
Until now, the birds got nearly all the credit. But a new study from University of Michigan researchers shows that during the summer wet season, bats devour more bugs than the birds at Finca Irlanda, a 740-acre organic coffee plantation in Chiapas, Mexico.
And they often do it using a "perch and wait" hunting technique that is proving to be far more common than bat researchers had believed. A report on the study appears in Friday's edition of the journal Science.
At a time when bat populations are declining worldwide, this new-found benefit to organic coffee farmers is another example of how these much-maligned mammals provide ecological services that go largely unnoticed. In addition to aiding agriculture, bats pollinate wild plants, disperse fruit seeds, and gorge on pesky mosquitoes by the ton.
"Bats are impacting ecological systems in all kinds of ways, and I just want them to get the credit they deserve," said Kimberly Williams-Guill.