Muntingia calabura - an attractive food plant of Cynopterus sphinx -deserves planting to lessen orchard damage
Of the 14 species of pteropodid bats that are found in India, Cynopterus sphinx receives most of the blame for causing damage to commercial fruit crops. We observed the number of visits made by C. sphinx to four species of commercial fruits in orchards (Mangifera indica, Achras sapota, Psidium guajava and Vitis vinifera), and four species of wild/non-commercial fruits (Muntingia calabura, Ficus bengalensis, F. religiosa and Bassia latifolia) in suburban areas. The total number of bat visits to M. calabura was significantly greater than to all other fruit species. The range of percentages of total nightly bat visits was from as low as 5% (V. vinifera) to 47% (F. religiosa), in comparison to the total nightly visits made to M. calabura. In addition, the number of mist-netted individuals of C. sphinx per hour near M. calabura was also significantly higher than near other fruit species. We suggest that if M. calabura is grown in and around orchards, damage caused by C. sphinx to commercial fruit crops may be decreased and therefore would serve as a non-destructive method for managing removal of commercial fruits by bats.
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