June 2005, Volume 3, Issue 6

Bats Face Windy Dangers


National Geographic is presenting one of Bat Conservation International’s most important initiatives to a new audience: children. Wind-energy turbines are killing many thousands of bats in United States and scientists are trying to figure out why, National Geographic Kids News reported recently.

The high-tech windmills turn wind energy into electricity and do not cause pollution like other sources of electricity, said the article by Catherine Clarke Fox. Companies are building more and more wind turbines across the United States.

Kids News quoted BCI Researcher Ed Arnett, who directs the organization’s Wind Energy Project, as saying that “at one site in West Virginia, an estimated 48 bats were killed by each turbine,” which means up to 4,000 bats are killed there each year.

Arnett told the publication that the tips of the turbine’s propeller-like blades, which can be 100 feet long or more) can move at 180 miles an hour, although most bat deaths seem to occur on calm evenings when the blades are turning slowly.

“What we think is going on is that low winds probably mean more insects flying — more favorable hunting,” Arnett said. “We're still trying to understand if bats are attracted to the blades themselves or if they are just hunting and unable to keep track of the blades.”

Research is under way to determine just why the bats seem to collide so often with the blades. Once scientists they find the answer to that question, they hope to come up with solutions to save bat lives.

Bats are definitely worth the effort, the article concludes, because “these acrobatic animals eat huge numbers of insects that harm crops – not to mention pesky mosquitoes that sometimes carry diseases.

All articles in this issue: