From the Modesto Bee:

A group of researchers says the threat posed to bats by a fatal disease isn't just a threat to the animals but to U.S. agriculture, one they believe farmers and consumers alike scarcely appreciate.

Bats save U.S. farmers at least $3.7 billion a year in pest-control costs by eating insects that feed on crops, a benefit that could be in jeopardy as a disease that has killed more than a million bats in the Northeast spreads to the Midwest, the researchers said in a paper published in the April edition of the journal Science. They and others fear the disease could eventually affect fruit- and vegetable-growing areas in the West as well.

"Almost daily, we get the question of why should we care about bats," said one of the paper's authors, biologist Paul Cryan of the U.S. Geological Survey. "We don't feel we have much time to get the word out that bats are important and why they're important."

For more, see: With fatal disease killing many bats, farmers may lose cheap pest control