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City Bees Line Nests With Plastic Bags

Science & Tech  (tags: animals, bees, design, environment, habitat, interesting, study, world )

- 1703 days ago -
Bits of your plastic shopping bags could end up in an unexpected place: a bee's nest. Researchers have found two bee species in Canada using plastic to help build the brood cells in their nests.


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Kathy B (106)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 6:59 am
Bits of your plastic shopping bags could end up in an unexpected place: a bee’s nest.

Researchers have found two bee species in Canada using plastic to help build the brood cells in their nests. This behavior might actually be a clever way for bees to adapt to life in the city, where plastic is ubiquitous. It’s not the first time that animals have been found using strange materials; for example, some finches and sparrows in Mexico line their nests with pieces of cigarette butts.

The authors were studying bees from the family Megachilidae, which normally use plants, pebbles, mud, and other natural materials in nests. The species Megachile rotundata typically collects flower petals and leaves, and the species Megachile campanulae uses resins from plants.

The researchers examined bee nests in the Toronto area, and “during inspection of the nesting tubes we discovered non-natural materials built into the nests of two different bee species,” they write in Ecosphere. A M. campanulae nest contained an unidentified “whitish green material”, so the team performed chemical analyses to try and figure out what it was. The material contained calcium, titanium, and iron and appeared to be similar to polyurethane-based sealants used on buildings.

In three brood cells in a M. rotundata nest, about a quarter of the leaves had been replaced by pieces of plastic bag. Marks from the bees’ mandibles on the plastic also looked different than those on the leaves. “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,” said co-author Andrew Moore of the University of Guelph in Ontario in a press release.

Larvae from the brood cells survived, and the authors suggest that plastic might even keep parasites out of the nest. But plastic might pose other problems, such as hindering the bees’ movement or breathing.

Freya H (358)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 7:41 am
Leave it to bees to find such a sweet way to recycle.

Myraida Diaz (136)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 7:43 am
Oh my! Toxic honey? Throw in the area those big red/green non toxic sculpture mud blocks for them to pick as many material as they decide!

Hahn H (167)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 9:08 am

Malgorzata Zmuda (203)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 9:27 am
szkoda pszczół, plastik na pewno nie wyjdzie im na zdrowie

Phillip Wood (210)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 9:30 am
There's no toxic honey, folks- read that these species of bees are not the kinds that make honey. Honeybees make comb from the wax they secrete.

Kit B (276)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 10:55 am

It is a sad commentary on this world of plastic and other pollutants that creatures now use them for building their homes. These bees may not be harmed by the plastic, the same can not be said for many other species.

Frances Darcy (124)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 11:21 am
Damned plastic is everywhere ...

Christeen A (342)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 12:52 pm
Enjoyed learning about this. Thank you.

Ruth C (87)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 1:24 pm
I agree with you 110% Kit.

Angela J (61)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 2:12 pm
Thank you.

Ann Breeden (65)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 2:13 pm
I agree with Kit B. This world has far too much plastic in it and now for some bees to be using it? That's sad.

Roger G (148)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 2:51 pm
noted, thanks

Ruth Ann W (198)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 4:03 pm
Yea. Not good news to me. It will be likely used by folks to argue plastic is good. It is not.

Birgit W (160)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 4:27 pm
Really. I just saw one bee last year, and I live pretty close to Toronto and Guelph. I wonder where they got the bees from.

Tere M (75)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 5:39 pm
Noted, thank you! ~

Nelson Baker (0)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 6:11 pm
Life in nature adapts to the surroundings. As for birds using cigarette butts in their nests, they probably know the nicotine in the butts controls the insects in the nest.

Colleen L (3)
Saturday February 15, 2014, 11:17 pm
I wish that they'd get rid of these plastic bags. They are causing harm in more ways than one. Now to think that Bees are using this harmful plastic. Thanks Kathy

Past Member (0)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 3:53 am
The human would soon suffer like these lives

Pogle S (88)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 4:22 am
It makes sense to me!

Past Member (0)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 4:33 am
like above this.

Alexandra G (250)
Sunday February 16, 2014, 6:52 am
noted, thanks Kathy
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