Just because we do not know how to handle the piles of plastics that we dump carelessly in landfills, it does not mean that no one else can. A study conducted by Canadian scientists from University of Guelph, Ontario, shows that bees pick plastic waste and build it into their own houses. The tiny workers learnt how to replace some of the tree resin, used to construct honeycombs, by bits of plastic bags.
The findings of the research, published in the journal Ecosphere, are most definitely not something that we should use as an excuse to continue polluting the environment with plastics, but they are quite remarkable. I guess, adaptation to changes in our surroundings is part of the natural instinct for self-preservation, and bees show that they are the masters in making the most of any situation.
Initially, it was thought that the use of plastics in the honeycombs is an accident, but after a number of experiments, the scientists were convinced that it was definitely not the case. By setting up experimental nests, or trap nests, the team was able to observe a goop-like material that resembled chewing gum, which was used as a building sealant inside the bees‘ homes. The impressive 23% of the traditional tree resin material was replaced by bits of plastic bags, and the insects even used different teeth to handle the synthetic material.
One one hand, this is really a great piece of news. It indicates that bees are experiencing an evolutionary development that allows them to make use of our trash for their own benefit. On the other hand, however, the study could be interpreted in the wrong way. Just because bees were able to adapt, it should definitely not mean that we can continue dumping plastics with no consideration. Now, we can definitely admire what these little animals are doing with our garbage, but we should most definitely not encourage this type of adaptation.
Image (c) StumbleUpon
See? More evolutionary bias…using that term and also using the term “adapt”. They are vastly different things. Yes, the bees adapted to the environment. No, they did not evolve. Did the different teeth they use to chew the plastic emerge from the adaptation? No. They were already there.