Plastic Eating Bugs

Scientists have discovered that waxworms can eat and break down one of the most common plastics (polyethylene) into organic compounds.

Waxworms are the caterpillar larvae of wax moths. They are medium-white caterpillars with black-tipped feet and small, black or brown heads.

In the wild, they live as nest parasites in bee colonies and eat cocoons, pollen, and shed skins of bees. They also eat and chew through beeswax, thus receiving the name waxworms. 

Beekeepers consider waxworms to be pests. The wax moths will not attack the bees directly, but feed on the wax used by the bees to build their honeycombs. 

Two species of the waxworm, Galleria mellonella and Plodia interpunctella, have both been observed in a laboratory setting eating and digesting polyethylene plastic. 

Waxworm

The waxworms can digest polyethylene plastic films into ethylene glycol, a compound which biodegrades rapidly. This unusual ability to process matter typically thought of as non-edible may originate with the waxworm’s ability to process beeswax. Secluded from the guts of Plodia interpunctella wax worms, there are two strains of bacteria, Enterobacter asburiae, and Bacillus sp

Scientists have discovered these two different strains of bacteria are capable of decomposing polyethylene.

Over 12 hours, laboratory tests have confirmed with a polyethylene shopping bag, containing approximately 100 Galleria mellonella that waxworms, were able to consume almost 0.1 gram of the plastic bag.

Plastic eating bugs is an excellent solution to the world’s overwhelming plastic problem. However, Melittologists, bee experts disagree, regarding the dangers of an extinct bee population from the world. The bee is an invaluable species to the ecosystem, and it is essential to fight the ever-growing plastic problem.

We cannot allow the wild waxworm to roam about too freely and digest our plastic pollution and potentially kill our beehives. 

Somewhere between the two lines, there is a blurred solution, which is yet to be discovered.

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