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White Nose Syndrome

Pseudogymnoascus destructans ID, Photo Credit: Al Hicks, NYSDEC,

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Common Name: White nose syndrome
Scientific Name: Pseudogymnoascus destructans
Origin: Europe


White nose syndrome (WNS) is caused by an invasive (non-native) fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, which affects hibernating bats. The fungus exists in caves and abandoned mines where bats spend the winter hibernating. There have been confirmed cases of white nose syndrome in 7 species of North American bats, 6 of which are found in New York. It was first identified in North America outside of Albany, NY during the winter of 2006-07. Currently, WNS has been found across eastern North America, from Canada to Mississippi. It is rarely found outside of winter hibernation sites.


White nose syndrome thrives in cold environments, such as the caves and abandoned mines where bats hibernate.


Pseudogymnoascus destructans grows on bats while they hibernate, eventually causing death. As a major predator of nocturnal, flying insects, bats are critical for maintaining healthy ecosystems and limiting populations of agricultural pests. Bats save the agricultural industry an estimated $23 billion each year.


Management currently focuses on spread prevention. The fungus causing white nose syndrome can likely be spread by humans and it is therefore important for researchers and spelunkers to clean off equipment before entering hibernacula. From May through October, bats are active, and their higher body temperatures allow them to easily fight off the fungal infection. Recent scientific developments have led to optimism that a treatment may be available at some point in the future.


The name white nose syndrome (WNS), comes from the white fungus that appears on the muzzle and other body parts of affected bats. Bats with WNS will display abnormal behavior during the winter, including flying outside during the day. This wastes valuable energy stores and exposes the bats to predation.

WNY PRISM Priority

Tier 5b- Research

Invasive Species Priorities – Tier Chart