In to bat against heliothis, native vegetation plays backstop

So often cast as the villain or vampire, bats could soon be another ally in integrated pest management of insect crop pests, most notably heliothis — and their natural habitat plays a key supporting role.

Scientists are hoping to better target heliothis, not by breeding a predator, but by mimicking the natural technology that bats use to detect heliothis. Rather than the large and familiar fruit bats, scientists will focus their attention on tiny mouse-sized bats with high metabolic rates and huge appetites.

Martin Dillon, an experimental scientist with CSIRO Entomology at the Australian Cotton Research Institute outside Narrabri, said early results showed that foraging bats upset moth behaviour.

Underscoring increasingly familiar messages about the benefits of native vegetation and biodiversity, the researchers found the highest diversity of bats occurred in crops close to natural stands of mature trees. Mr Dillon would like to hear from farmers who have insectivorous bat roosts on their farms.

Contact: Mr Martin Dillon 02 6799 1518