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Identification, Symptoms and nature of damage: Fire bats in Grapes
Introduction • The vertebrate pests of grapes are birds, bats and squirrels. While squirrels cause very minor damage, whereas bird and bats cause considerable damage to ripe bunches. • Information for their feeding pattern, time and nature of attack will help to take appropriate measures to safeguard the bunch from birds and bats. • There are 4200 living species of mammals and almost 1000 of them are bats belonging to the order Chiroptera, sub-order; Megachiroptera (fruit-bats) and Microchiroptera (Insectivorous bats).
Why it is so important? • Of 1000 species, 25% are frugivorous and 88% exclusively tropical. • Most of the fruit eating bats roost in groups on tree branches, leaves and tents. • Droppings from frugivorous bats contain fruit pulp and seeds which may also serve as a substrate for disease causing pathogens. • The bat, Cynopterus sphinx Vahl (Megachiroptera: Pteropodidae), seriously damages grapes in India. • Of the 14 species of pteropodid bats that are found in India, Cynopterus sphinx receives most of the blame for causing damage to commercial fruit crops.
Short- nosed fruit bat- Identification Morphological Description • Dorsal fur is yellowish brown. Ventral fur is more darker than dorsal fur. • Juveniles are lighter than adults. Distribution • Wide ranging: found from Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka to southern China, Malaysia, Java, Lesser Sunda Island, Borneo and Sulawesi .
Habitat • Habitats include agricultural areas, forested regions and parks in cities. Generally, it is found at lower altitudes. Foraging behaviour • Forages at forests and fruit farms, using its acute sense of smell to detect fruits. • The diet consists of a large number of wild and cultivated fruits.
Symptoms of damage • It is a voracious feeder on grape berries. • It plucks the berries from the bunch and sucks the juice from the berries and expels the pulp and skin. • As the bats are nocturnal in habit, they visit the vineyards during night and damage the bunches.
How to identify their damage? • Hanging half naked bunches on vines and the littered ground of vineyards and nearby trees are the tell- tale evidences of bat damage.
Management practices • Crop protection without vertebrate mortality is desirable in most situations. • Putting a strong nylon around the vineyard is advocated to minimize the damage by bats • Timely harvests, clean cultivation, wrapping or covering of fruits, mulching the base of fruit trees, seasonal pruning, shade regulation, animal-proof trenches, polyculture, baiting and provisioning the orchards with alternative foods for the vertebrates are some useful management tools. Nylon netting around orchard
Conti…. • A harmonious blend of these crop protection tools with solar powered fence, repellent pastes of local materials, scaring and public awareness of the role of vertebrates in orchards will promote conservation of natural resources and sustain good quality fruit yields. • Arranging of lights in the interior and peripheral area of the vineyard and illumination during nights can also minimize the bat damage of bunches. • Human population pressure and increasing Human-Animal conflicts is making vertebrate-pathogen-fruit orchard interactions develop into an important science.
Let’s sum up • The bat, Cynopterus sphinx Vahl (Megachiroptera: Pteropodidae), seriously damages grapes in India. • Forages at forests and fruit farms, using its acute sense of smell to detect fruits. • Hanging half naked bunches on vines and the littered ground of vineyards and nearby trees are the tell- tale evidences of bat damage. • Use of harmonious blend of crop protection tools will promote conservation of natural resources and sustain good quality fruit yields.