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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.

Morgan Freeman Converted His Ranch into a Bee Sanctuary

Morgan Freeman is a well-known film director, philanthropist, and an award-winning actor. Off-screen, he has taken on another role as a beekeeper.

The Hollywood legend converted his entire 124-acre Mississippi ranch into a bee sanctuary. He intends to help save the declining bee population. In 2014, Freeman began his journey of beekeeping, which he discussed on the Jimmy Fallon show.

During the interview, he stated his motivation and the importance of saving the wild bees.

“There is a concerted effort for bringing bees back onto the planet. We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation,” Freeman explained.

Bees being fed on the Mississippi Ranch.

Freeman feeds the bees sugar water each day, and he doesn’t wear a bee suit while he feeds the bees. He insists, not a single bee has stung him. He said that he also has no plans of harvesting their honey or in doing anything to disturb the beehives for profit. His main objective is to protect the bee population.

Freeman has also planted large amounts of magnolia trees, lavender, clover, and other bee-allied plants. He is doing everything he can to ensure a vibrant environment surrounds the bees. He would like the bees to feel at home on his ranch.

Throughout the last six years, The Environmental Protection Agency has notified the public of a Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) as the primary cause of the decline of bee populations nationally. Other environmental reasons such as drought, decreased nutrition, parasites, global warming, and air pollution are also taking a toll on bee populations.

Human related activities are also taking a toll on the bees; such as pesticides, insect-resistant genetically-modified crops, and habitat loss are primary factors responsible for CCD. The U.S. government has also recently and surprisingly lifted the bans on the use of bee-killing pesticides, which is a controversial move.

Various potential ecological and agricultural issues can arise if the bee population continues to decrease. Bees are essential pollinators for plants around the world. Researchers from Greenpeace have indicated the domestic and wild honeybees are needed for 80% of global plant pollination.

According to the scholars at Greenpeace, humans can protect the wild bees by:

· The abolition of dangerous pesticides
· The preservation of wild bee habitat
· The restoration of ecological agriculture

Morgan Freeman is a hero to the planet, and his kindness has no end. Operation Earth salutes him on his journey to protecting the bees.

Jane Goodall Vouches to Plant 5 million Trees in 2020

Will life on Earth exist if there are no forest covers? The answer is undoubtedly a big NO. Green covers are fundamental to life on Earth as they embrace an overwhelming diversity of life. The forest covers oxygenate the air we breathe, purifies the water we drink, keeps soil erosion in check, and works as a shield against climate change. 

Unfortunately, green covers are being destroyed at a startling rate. The main reasons behind this destruction are:

– Consumer demands for beef, mined minerals, palm oil, paper, and many more products. 

– Dominant, economic and political interests

This system is erasing innumerable species, spiking imbalance, endangering the survival of aboriginal communities, and the whole existence of life on mother earth.

The only viable solution for the problem of climate change is the protection of green covers, replantation, and restoration of forests. 

Dr. Jane Goodall has decided to give our Mother Earth a fighting chance with her announcement at the 2020 World Economic Forum. She announced her commitment to contribute five million trees through her organization and partnerships in the next year. She aims to achieve it through replantation or restoration. Planting trees is her contribution to one trillion trees campaign of The United Nations Environment Programme.

It is no secret in these last several years, we’ve observed the dreadful, escalating series of destruction that appears when green covers go missing and climate alteration wrecks topography through different natural disasters. 

Encouraged by good virtues, Dr. Goodall feels the campaign is an opportunity to do right by the Earth. Through the works of Jane Goodall Institute (JDI) and other partnerships, Dr. Goodall asserts efforts to reach the goal of one Trillion Trees.

What is the significance of this campaign?

Science says reforestation at the global level binds at least 25% of the annual human-made Carbon Dioxide emissions. This campaign prevents prolonged loss and degradation of green covers and supports the sustainable and appropriate restoration of forests. This campaign could contribute to 33% of the total climate change mitigation needed by the year 2030. 

Restoration of only 350 million hectares of green covers could distrain more than one gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent yearly.

Going by the estimations of the campaign, an area equivalent to the size of the United States could be recuperated with the green cover. 

Jane Goodall Institution and conservation of the chimpanzee range.

The JGI is known to the world for its plausible conservation works across the globe. One of the most commendable works of JGI is holistic conservation across the Chimpanzee range in Africa in collaboration with the local communities. The holistic protection allowed the creation of productive land-use designs and green covers and support of endurable livelihoods. The JGI uses cutting-edge technology to comprehend and compile data of an ecosystem, effectively evaluate habitat shifts, and improve over time.

Such protocols support the protection of precious environments and have provided millions of trees planted or restored over 30 years. Similarly, the Roots & Shoots program assists youth in becoming environmental activists via service-learning projects, which primarily deals in restoration and replantation of forests.

An American Female Hero Who Dedicates Her Time to Killing Poachers

Statistics say that 3500 people are born every 20 minutes on this planet, and sadly, at the same time, a complete species of animals or plants die forever.

It is unfortunate that if this ebb and flow continue in this manner, approximately 20% of the species on this planet will become extinct in the next 30 years. An example of such a species is the black rhino; their population has decreased by almost 97.6% since the 1960s.

Presently, the market price of the rhino horn is somewhere around $30,000 per pound; and this considerable price gives a clear indication of why people are using highly advanced weapons and technologies to track animals in the wild. Endangered animals are slaughtered every year for their body parts such as bones, pelts, horns, etc., that are sold at a substantial price on the black market. These horns are further used to create some religious figurines, and in many markets, people create toddler-sized men as a cure to sexual helplessness.

Some veterans from the U.S. took the initiative to save these endangered animals while taking solid steps against illegal hunting. Kinessa Johnson is the most famous name on the list; this retired U.S. veteran had previously completed several tours in Afghanistan. Currently, she is an anti-poaching advisor, and her team is responsible for training in field medicine, marksmanship, as well as counterintelligence.

Rhino in Tanzania

Before the formation of the group Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VETPAW), made of U.S. veterans, 187 park rangers in Tanzania had lost their lives while protecting elephants and rhinos in the area.

The elephant poaching rate in Tanzania had increased over the years; until, Johnson and her team arrived in Africa and joined VETPAW. They started dealing with the poaching issues so that animals who live in Tanzania can be protected by whatever means possible. The poacher’s assassination squad has safeguarded hundreds of animals during this last year.

Johnson and her team are making great efforts to protect the animals, especially elephants and rhinos in the area. A considerable level of the slaughtering cases is now reduced, and it is expected that this issue will be eliminated in a short time. Johnson has dedicated her entire life to these wild creatures, and she is always ready to kill poachers. They are also trying to enforce the existing poaching law in the area, so these mistakes are not made again.

Johnson and her team have created an example for the world, and everyone should take some inspiration from their efforts. They have contributed a lot to save the planet and the innocent living beings in the wild.

Crows are as Intelligent as a Human Child

Who amongst us would have ever thought that crows will one day successfully prove to the world that their brains are sharper than most of the other species in the animal kingdom?

The latest study concerning the intelligence quotient of crows claimed that the new caledonian crows are capable of fashioning tools that would catalyze their survival by putting together numerous independent parts. The tendency of a species to construct equipment was something that occurred amongst the great apes and humans too.

The most interesting part lies in the fact that human children cannot master the strategies of combining separate pieces into an instrument in the early years of their lives. To do so, one must possess foresight, problem-solving skills, and brainpower in the list of inexorable requisites.

As per the statements of Auguste von Bayern, a zoologist who seeks to understand how animals, in particular corvids and parrots think, the first author of the study from the University of Oxford and Max-Planck Institute of Ornithology, their findings of this research are incredible. The crows that had been subjects of the investigation did not receive any assistance or training whatsoever while making these combinations; every bit of the mechanism was delineated by themselves.

The corvid experiment

In the experiment, the masters of the avian world were served with see-through boxes that had trays of food placed inside them. To reach the food, the crows had to poke through the walls of the box with a stick and rest it on a small hole. Then they needed to further push and transport the food to an opening posited on the other side of the box.

In the first step, the researchers procured the crows with long sticks around the box, and evidently, the crows knew how to pick them up, poke through the hole on one of its sides and get the food. However, the sticks were not long enough, and they could not reach the tray of food. Thus, the only solution was to combine these small sticks with others of similar size and then draw the food towards themselves, and to everyone’s surprise, four out of the eight crows executed the same strategy. Instead of attempting to push the tray with a stick of the inappropriate size, they made their tools by assembling the smaller sticks to transform it into bigger ones.

The crows were able to formulate a variety of ways to fix this issue, and concluded with an efficient solution. Furthermore, one smart crow from this group fabricated a sophisticated tool; meaning, he created a longer stick by combining four parts of the smaller sticks to poke from a considerable distance.

The truth that crows are great learners and are often classified as one of those animals that can employ tools both when free and captive cannot be denied. Now, after evaluating this discovery and the results of the research, we can safely assert that crows are blessed to make use of their memories in ways that are untraversed by animals and human beings alike

Mushroom Extracts Could Help The Bees

The bee population has been going steadily downhill since the late 1990s. It has given rise to what is known as ‘colony collapse disorder.’ It happens when a colony is left without many of its worker bees, leaving behind a queen and a few nurse bees. While the phenomenon used to be rarer, it has become much more common in recent years as it coincides with the overall declining bee population. 

Bee-killing pesticides are the biggest danger of all. Even when the pesticides are not being directly targeted at the bees, they have been immensely destructive to their habitat all the same. Many flowers and nest sites get contaminated from insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides, or even things such as dust from farm operations. 

As destructive as pesticides have been, they are sadly not the only threat to the bees. Far from it. There have been numerous other dangers. Among them being industrial agriculture, climate change, loss of biodiversity, lack of food for the bees, and diseases that impact the bees directly. 

The ‘deformed wing virus’ is up there in terms of its sheer devastation to the bee population. The virus causes the bees’ wings to come out shrunken and/or deformed, which oftentimes will completely prevent the bees from being able to fly. The virus also hampers their immune systems and shortens their lifespans. With their flying ability compromised, the bees also pollinate less plants. Not only that, but among the plants that do get pollinated, traces of the virus are left behind, potentially infecting other pollinators. 

The reishi mushroom, also known as Ganoderma lucidum and lingzhi, is a fungus that grows in various hot and humid locations in Asia.

Alas, most beekeepers do not have an efficient way to fight the virus. But that doesn’t mean that nothing can be done at all. As it happens, mushrooms have proven to be useful once again. This time around, it is the Fomes and Ganoderma mushrooms that have been able to benefit nature. 

It is at Washington State University where a lot of testing has been done. Using mycelium extracts taken from these mushrooms, scientists have been feeding the extracts to bees that are infected with deformed wing virus, whereupon the scientists study the affects of the mycelium and see if it has been beneficial in any way. In both indoor and outdoor experiments, the scientists’ findings were that the bees who fed on mycelium extracts came out a lot healthier than the bees who only drank sugar water. While the mycelium did not completely eradicate the virus, it did help reduce it by a significant degree. 

The results have been promising so far, but some of the results are still inconclusive, and more research will need to be done. It’s still being determined just how effective the mycelium extracts will be in the long run with helping to restoring bee colonies. The field studies so far took place over a two-month period during the summer. However, winter is the season where bees struggle the most, and as such, future studies will need to focus more on winter to see how many of the bees are able to survive the cold. 

Sources: 

https://www.wired.com/story/a-mushroom-extract-might-save-bees-from-a-killer-virus/ 

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder 

 http://sos-bees.org/ 

 http://sos-bees.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/BeesInDecline.pdf 

Plants Are Susceptible To Stress and Will Express It Through Sounds

Plants vent out ultrasonic squeaks when stressed; humans can’t hear them, but other plants and animals susceptible to ultrasonic sound certainly do. 

The question is if a thirsty plant screams, why can’t we hear it?

We can’t hear a plant’s cry of distress because it is at a frequency too high, and humans can’t perceive high-frequency sounds. Many botanists have given evidence of plants producing ultrasound squeaks under stress. The state of a plant can be well judged by analyzing the emitted sounds. Plants are responsive when touched by insects, put in light, and in darkness. Researchers are suggesting they can experience pain too. 

An experiment had been conducted using the tomato and tobacco plants. Both these plants had been subjected to two different levels of discomfort.

  • Drought 
  • Cutting of Stems 

This experiment has been conducted by the School of Plant Sciences at Tel-Aviv University. They discovered that ultra-sound is emitted, ranging from 20-100 kHz. These sounds can be detected from approximately four meters. It is speculated that such sounds can be heard by neighboring plants or organisms in the range of four meters susceptible to sound levels of 20-100 kHz.

Tobacco Plant

Many insects, such as moths and butterflies, which use plants as hosts for their larvae, can perceive and react to the sounds emitted by the plants. Such insects avoid laying eggs on a distressed or a discomforted plant. In the experiment conducted, proper computer intelligence has been used to differentiate between general sounds and plant sounds. Artificial Intelligence algorithms have been devised to diagnose different conditions of plants, whether cut or died out.

What is the science behind these sounds?

The process of cavitation is responsible for the ultrasound screams. Under this process, air bubbles form and explode in xylem, which creates vibrations. These vibrations are sounds recorded by the researchers experimenting. They even found that tomato plants subjected to thirst related discomfort emitted 35 sounds an hour, and the tobacco plant emitted 11 sounds an hour. The rate decreased to 25 sounds an hour for tomato plants when subjected to stress related to their stem being cut. However, the rate slightly increased to 15 sounds an hour for the tobacco plant when subjected to the discomfort associated with a cut stem.

Tomato Plant

The research was also conducted in a greenhouse too. A few adequately watered tomato plants had been set in the greenhouse for ten days. As the plants were watered, only a few sounds had been emitted for the first three days. From the fourth to seventh day, the plants were not watered, and the sounds per hour exceptionally increased. Conversely, the sounds diminished as the plants dried. 

So far, the research has been conducted on tomato and tobacco plants. As quoted by the researchers, they will be extending the experiment to more species and conditions. The prospects for future research would be fascinating. Next time, you curse your bacia or let your cat ruin your lawn or forget to water your flowers, bear in mind that your leafy buddies have feelings too. 

Epic Victory of Mozambique’s Niassa Reserve – Zero Elephant Poaching Last Year

A victory for The Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique, in southeast Africa, has been marked, it is scoring almost 20+ months without a single tusker lost to poachers. Precisely, 17 May 2018 is the last time a poacher killed an elephant in this reserve. Due to the raging organized poaching, The Niassa Reserve in northern Mozambique had lost several hundreds of tuskers, before 2016. From 2016-2018, the number has decreased with an average of a few hundred killed each year. 

The dramatic turnaround was achievable through rigorous anti-poaching activities that have been deployed to achieve this success:

  • A compatible association of Govt. of Mozambique and privilege operators in Niassa Reserve
  • Deployment of a Rapid Intervention Unit. This unit of police formed is better armed than regular rangers
  • Spiking surveillance through different aviation and drone programs
  • Reinforcing harsh sentences for poachers

Did you know the size of the Niassa Reserve is more significant than the country of Switzerland? 

One wonders how much effort would have been needed to achieve zero poaching goals. James Bampton, who is a country director with New-York based Wildlife Conservation Society, calls it a remarkable achievement. This new success has encouraged a hope that elephants in the Niassa Reserve “stand a genuine chance for recovery.” In addition to that, the partnership helps to keep watch for illegal fishing activities in The Reserve. The reinforcement of harsher sentences weakened these poaching activities, and many cases had been prosecuted under severe penalties. 

Elephants in the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique. WCS Mozambique

The Reserve was the ultimate spot of tragic poaching of tuskers, mainly from 2009-2014. It would not be wrong to call these five years as catastrophic times for the ecosystem. Poaching is a threat to our ecosystem, creating an imbalance. It is the greed of organized criminals who want to kill and sell animals to humans to satisfy their needs. Poachers are usually the impoverished people looking for ready cash. As per the aerial survey, from 2000 – 2011, there existed an average estimate of 12,000 elephants at this reserve. A dramatic reduction in population was recorded in five years 2009-2014. In contrast to 12,000 tuskers, only 3,675 elephants were recorded in the year 2016. 

Given the vast colossal extent of wildlife in The Niassa Reserve, it is one of the few sites in Africa capable of sustaining a robust population of elephants. The reserve is a part of the Niassa-Selous Transfrontier Conservation Area of a natural and untouched landscape. Per some research, it is currently estimated to sustain a multitude of 20,000 elephants. 

Regardless of the well-calculated efforts of Govt. of Mozambique and privilege operators in Niassa Reserve, it will take an unknown amount of years for the elephant population to overhaul to its former levels. Experts claim that annual tusker losses still surpass the birth rate, and the intrusion of human settlements is shrinking the animals’ range. According to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, poaching of elephants has radically declined to pre-2008 levels after reaching a peak in the year 2011. 

IKEA Ditches Styrofoam for Mushroom Based Packaging

Known for its toxic impact on nature, plastic is one of the biggest environmental concerns we face today. One issue is that plastic forms so many of the containers and packaging used for retail products. Nearly half of all such packaging is plastic, in fact. While plastic does have a lot of convenient uses in that regard, it is a shame that is it so destructive to nature. 

Conversely, it is a good thing that mushrooms have so many environmental benefits, with more being uncovered all the time. Not long ago, scientists discovered a mushroom called the Pestalotiopsis microspore, which is able to digest plastic and convert it into a fungal-based food product for people to eat. 

Biodegradable packing made from mushrooms.

As it happens, mushrooms have proven to be useful once again. This time around, they have been able to act as a viable alternative to environmentally-unfriendly containers such as the ones made out of plastic or Styrofoam. These mushroom containers are made out of fungal roots and farming residues. At the start of the manufacturing process, fungus sprouts (also known as mycelium) are mixed in with seedlings and other agricultural residues. With a network of wire-like cells, it acts as a natural adhesive. 

Once the mushroom containers are no longer needed, they can be used for compost, and are otherwise fully biodegradable. The containers can decompose into nature within a timespan of one month, and are also completely harmless to any living creatures who happen to ingest them. Among other benefits, the containers also use only 12% of the energy used in plastic production, and they produce 90% less carbon emissions than plastic manufacture. 

Polystyrene for organic.

IKEA, a company that sells furniture, kitchen appliances, and home accessories, began to make use of these mushroom-based containers over the summer of 2019, even going far enough to announce that MycoComposite packaging would be replacing Styrofoam for all of the company’s products. Joanna Yarrow, IKEA’s Head of Sustainability, stated that this was, “[a] small yet significant step towards reducing waste and conserving ecological balance.” 

There are still many people to this day who are unaware of how damaging plastic and Styrofoam are. Styrofoam is made from polystyrene, a petroleum-based plastic, which causes pollution by emitting greenhouse gases. It is also very harmful to any creatures who end up consuming the Styrofoam. Cows and birds especially are at high risk for ingesting it, and it is believed that by 2050, 99% of birds will have plastic inside of them. It can also be harmful to people as well. For one thing, chemicals from Styrofoam containers can contaminate the food or drinks inside, which is detrimental to human health. 

All we can do for now is continue to spread awareness, and to hope that these new methods of environmentally-safe packaging will further catch on. IKEA’s new approach and their willingness to alter their production methods is promising, and it inspires faith that others will learn to do the same. 

The Worlds First Electric Plane Has Taken Flight

The world’s first fully electric plane took a successful flight for almost fifteen minutes. The world’s first fully-electric commercial aircraft made its maiden test flight in December 2019, taking off from Vancouver, Canada, gifting a massive confidence that the aviation industry may end their contaminating and polluting emissions.

The airline industry across the globe has vowed to lessen the carbon footprint of the aviation business; they are now focusing on electric propulsion. As per a recent report by Climate Law Institute, aircraft would contribute more than forty gigatons of pollutants by the year 2050, exhausting with more than 6% of earth’s remaining carbon budget. Planes release overwhelming levels of carbon dioxide, the most rampant greenhouse gas. With the green intention, the test flight of an all-electric flight has changed the game of the aviation industry.

The organizations of Harbour Air and Magnix need to be congratulated for their incredible partnership in creating the very first all-electric commercial aviation vehicle. A big thanks to them discovering aviation with zero emissions. In simpler words, let’s assume passenger aviation as a country; the same would rank eighth after South Korea on carbon footprints. As the world prepares for COP26, the 2020 United Nations Climate Change Conference, it is highly ambiguous how delegates will put forward an international treaty to cut airplane pollution.

The United Nations agency of ICAO responsible for focusing on international aviation pollution has flopped to deal with aviation carbon emissions. The industry has successfully launched its first all-electric airplane, to deal with aviation pollution. The biggest challenge for “Green Propulsion” is that electric engines are relatively weak when compared to the weight of large planes.

First, short-haul flights are possible with the limited battery life of these electric engines. The best part is, the industry doesn’t have to build a new plane around the electric motor, which demands more resources concerning money and time. However, the existing aircraft can be modernized with the non-polluting electric engine.

We all remember the Wright Brothers, who blessed us with a new era of transportation with their invention. And, almost a century later, technology maestro Harbor Air has revolutionized its design with all-electric airplanes. Their venture marks the latest evolution in all-electric flight, a quantum to fight climate change.

With many companies like Boeing, Uber, etc. are working on developing electric vertical take-off and landing, environmentally friendly, passenger electric air travel can be a reality very soon.