Bats are an important tool for farmers, stopping insects from causing an estimated $23 billion in damages annually, according to a recent study in Science.

An even though Kansas only has 16 species, their value is exceedingly high, as much as $74 an acre for harvested crops. Across Kansas, that's almost $1.5 billion that farmers are able to pocket, thanks to a flying mammal that isn't well studied and often feared. The savings could be as high as $3.4 billion.

Savings in Ellis County, for example, might be a paltry $11 million, but in a corn-intensive county like Thomas -- where more pesticides are used to control insects -- the savings quickly jumps to more than $30 million.

Bats are able to eat 500 insects an hour and as many as 3,000 in a single night.

Bats will go out and eat their fill, take a rest and digest what they've eaten, and then head back out for another feeding frenzy, according to Curtis Schmidt, co-author of the new book, "Bats of Kansas."

In northwest Kansas alone, bats are worth nearly $310 million, perhaps as much as $720 million.

The study on the value of bats for agriculture stems from the threats the animals are facing as a result of wind turbines and white nose syndrome.

Although WNS has not been found in Kansas, it is killing off bats by the thousands. Schmidt voiced concern the fungal disease could be soon found in Kansas, most likely in the southern half of the state.

-- Mike Corn, HDN