Popular wisdom has always been that bats help limit mosquito populations. However, the evidence supporting this claim has been anecdotal or indirect at best. The indirect, scientific information has been limited to bat diet analysis, which only indicates that bats sometimes eat mosquitoes, but doesn’t indicate whether or how bat predation actually impacts mosquito populations.
Dr. Matthew Wund (TCNJ ’99), Assistant Professor of Biology at TCNJ, and his colleague Dr. Michael Reiskind from Oklahoma State University, have provided the first definitive evidence in support of this hypothesis. Their results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Population and Community Ecology, and the study was selected and featured in the magazine Bat Conservation International.
Their experiment demonstrated that bats can in fact limit the number of egg-laying, femail mosquitoes in the genus Culex (which is the vector for West Nile virus, among other diseases), reducing their numbers by 30% when bats were present in field enclosures. This demographic is important because it is the ovipositing females that will soon be seeking out another blood meal to enrich their next clutch of eggs, at which point they transmit disease. Reiskin and Wund’s research is the first study to systematically address the impacts of bats on mosquitoes, and specifically those mosquitoes which transmit disease.