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"Café Latte Batte" -- The Discovery Files

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At a time when bat populations are declining worldwide, a new University of Michigan study shows the bat's impact on ecological systems. The study reveals that bats exceed birds in their ability to devour coffee-eating insects on organic coffee farms.

Credit: NSF/Clear Channel Communications/Karson Productions

Audio Transcript:

Yea, Café latte bat-te?

I'm Bob Karson with the Discovery Files -- new advances in science and engineering from the National Science Foundation.

(SOUND EFFECT: countryside, birds, insects) the organic coffee plantations of Mexico. Since pesticides can't be used, farmers must rely on the natural predators of insects and spiders -- birds and bats. For the longest time, birds have been getting the lion's share of the credit for pest control, but new research out of the University of Michigan is now going to bat for the bats.

(SOUND EFFECT: bats) Aside from their obvious 'creepy' factor, the bats may have also been discriminated against because farmers didn't fully understand how they work.

Researchers set up field experiments to observe and measure the pest-killing prowess of these winged warriors versus birds. When bats were kept away from the coffee bushes, there was an 84% increase in of insects, spiders and other undesirables.

The research also uncovered one of the often-overlooked reasons for the bats' keen hunting skills -- the "perch and wait" technique. While flying, a bat can scarf down a supersize portion of insects. The "perch and wait" method allows him to just hang, and listen for his next meal on a nearby leaf or twig -- then grab it when ready.

As world bat populations dwindle, this research underscores their importance to organic agriculture -- not to mention their role in mosquito reduction, pollination, seed dispersion, and -- crime fighting. See you again next week, same bat time -- same bat channel.

For the Discovery Files, I'm Bob Karson.

"The Discovery Files" covers projects funded by the government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you, by you! Learn more at or on our podcast.

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