Bats are major consumers of arthropods, and there is ever growing evidence that they play a pivotal role in the fight against agricultural pests. However, relatively little research has addressed explicitly this important topic, and studies in temperate regions (especially European case studies) are infrequent. In the last few years, state-of-art molecular methods to identify prey remains in droppings and new experimental approaches to assess the actual magnitude of this ecosystem service have opened new perspectives in research. In this review, we discuss such aspects with an emphasis on temperate regions, and identify new research frontiers. These comprise: (1) detecting new bat species that consume pests, and further pest insects that bats might eat; (2) exploring sublethal effects of bat echolocation calls on tympanate moth pests; (3) getting a better understanding of bat predation over blood-sucking arthropods that parasitize livestock; (4) unveiling indirect effects of bat predation on plant pathogens; (5) implementing models to map the occurrence of bat insectivory and the potential to promote it; and (6) analyse bat droppings for active surveillance of arthropod pests and the diseases they carry. We also highlight that so-called “common” bat species, often neglected in conservation actions, are likely to provide the bulk of pest suppression in agroecosystems. All such aspects merit investigation and may lead to novel management practices aimed at conjugating bat conservation with economic and social sustainability of farming.
- Ecology of fear
- Molecular analysis