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    Bees Recycling Plastic Garbage in Hives

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    Geo Beats

    by Geo Beats

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    A recent study discovered at least two species of Toronto’s bees pitching in to recycling efforts by reusing plastic in their hives.

    Each year, people fill the world’s land and oceans with millions of tons of plastic waste, a very small percentage of which actually gets reused.

    A recent study discovered at least two species of bees in Toronto are pitching in by recycling plastic in their hives.

    The research team at University of Guelph, led by alum J. Scott MacIvor, has joined forces with many “citizen scientists” to monitor about 200 artificial bee nesting areas on roofs and in parks and gardens.

    One kind of bee that normally uses tree resin to create honeycomb cells for its young had switched to sometimes using a type of polyurethane-based sealant, or caulk.

    Another type, the alfalfa leafcutter, switched out about a quarter of its typical leaf use with polyethylene-based plastic bags. The team’s analytical microscopy supervisor Andrew Moore said, “The plastic materials had been gathered by the bees, and then worked -- chewed up and spit out like gum -- to form something new that they could use.”

    What's amazing is that the bees had an ample supply of leaves available to them. Plus, the larvae that emerged from the cells made with plastic were parasite-free. According to MacIvor, “The novel use of plastics in the nests of bees could reflect the ecologically adaptive traits necessary for survival in an increasingly human-dominated environment.”