Besides the inclement rain, what is worrying the apple growers in Rohru and some areas of Jubbal now days the most are the bats (flying mammals), who are seen swarming in the orchards and eating into the growers' profit.
However, the flying mammals play a crucial role in controlling pests, but the attack on apple trees not only destroy the crops but also damage the trees. There have been several reports of bats attacking the apple orchards in Rohru and its surrounded villages, including Chirgaon. Some areas have been reportedly facing the menace since last so many years.
Vikas Negi, an orchardist from Chirgaon said, “In the past three to four days, the attacks have increased. This happens every year. During the apple season, the bats migrate from other areas and establish their colonies near the Pabbar river,” he said.
The local orchardists, who have been facing the brunt, said, “The bats feed on ripe apples and leave a claw mark on the fruit, which damages the crop.”
Meanwhile, Shimla zila parishad chairman and member of Dhagoli ward Chandreshwar Prasad said though the frequency of the attacks had been recorded low so far, but it had become a problem for the growers as they could nothing about the situation.
The animal colonies can be noticed on Alnus trees, which are growing along the banks of Pabbar river and its tributary Sikhri Nullah. Rawal Chand, an orchardist and Shiladesh panchayat pradhan said, however, the bat raids had not started in their area so far, but reports had been coming from the nearby areas.
“Our crop is not safe. Earlier, the bad weather hampered the crop growth and now reports of bat raids are coming as a bad news,” he said.
Recent, studies that were conducted by high-altitude regional centre of Zoological Survey of India, Solan, observed that the problem was seasonal. “Flying mammals travel from one part to the other in search of food and controlling them is a tough task,” reads the study, adding that the bat could fly up to 30 km overnight.
The study also observed that firing gun shots or beating drums was the only solution to stop the mammal from settling on trees, as loud noise could frighten them.Head of the Entomology department of Horticulture and Forestry University Nauni, Rakesh Gupta said, “Mainly two species of fruit bats are found in the apple region-fulvous fruit bat (Rousettus leschenaulti) and flying fox (Pteropus giganteus),” he said.
Meanwhile, the studies conducted by the Zoological survey of India observed that the state hosted 24 species of bats, including great himalayan horseshoe bat, the intermediate horseshoe bat, the great himalayan leaf-nosed bat, the schreiber's long-fingered bat and the siliguri.
However, increased population of bats has also raised fear of disease outbreak amongst the locals, as Rohru sub-divisions lies in the sylvatic belt (prone to vector-borne diseases), and has witnessed occurrence of pneumonic plague thrice in 1945, 1998 and 2002.