As the third-largest genus in Mexican flora, Agave pervades the natural landscapes and cultural heritage of the Americas, providing human communities with food, fiber and distilled drinks for centuries. The best-known spirit, tequila, depends on the pollination of cultivated crops of A. tequiliana Weber var. azul by three imperiled species of nectar-eating bats. One likely contributor to the decline of these species is that commercial Agave isn’t allowed to flower, sacrifing bat food for tequila’s ‘aguamiel’ base.
In this study, the authors model a ‘bat-friendly’ approach that permits the inflorescence of between 5 and 10 per cent of cultivated plants to boost nectar supplies for hungry chiropterans. Potential mutual benefits that crop up include increased genetic diversity among commercial Agave clones now vulnerable to emerging plantation diseases, suggesting how to sustain healthy populations of bats, A. tequiliana, as well as producers, distributors and—within the confines of their own limits—consumers of tequila.