Bhalla, I.S., Razgour, O., Rigal, F. & Wittaker, R.J. (2023) Insectivorous bats in Indian rice fields respond to moonlight, temperature, and insect activity.Landscape Ecology, 38, 2947-2963. DOI:10.1007/s10980-023-01764-1 (IF2021 5,045; Q1 Ecology)
Rice, India’s most widely grown crop, suffers substantial and increasing yield loss to insect pests. Insectivorous bats are known suppressors of insect pests, providing significant economic value to agricultural systems worldwide, yet their ecology in Indian agricultural landscapes is poorly understood.
We assess the influence of key biotic and abiotic factors on the activity of insectivorous bats over the growing season and within a night in a rice cultivation landscape.
Passive acoustic recorders were used to track bat activity in a rice field in the Sonitpur district of Assam, India. We used generalised linear mixed models to analyse the effect of temperature, insect activity, and moonlight intensity on the activity of six bat sonotypes. We also used a multimodal analysis to describe the within-night activity patterns of these sonotypes.
Minimum nightly temperature and moonlight intensity had a positive and negative influence, respectively, on the activity of six bat sonotypes, while the activity of four bat sonotypes increased with insect activity. Within-night activity showed one of two patterns: three sonotypes displayed a dusk peak in activity, while the three other sonotypes were active through the night.
The potential to maximise natural pest control in agricultural landscapes can only be realised through understanding the ecology of natural enemies in these landscapes. Our findings suggest that bats in rice fields are tracking insects over a season and within a night, pointing to a valuable ecosystem service in Indian agriculture that is yet to be quantified.