Navigation Links
Urban bees using plastic to build hives
Date:2/11/2014

Once the snow melts, Canada's bee population will be back in business -- pollinating, making honey and keeping busy doing bee things. For at least two urban bee species, that means making nests out of plastic waste.

A new study by a University of Guelph graduate and a U of G scientist reveals that some bees use bits of plastic bags and plastic building materials to construct their nests. The research was published recently in the journal Ecosphere.

It's an important discovery because it shows bees' resourcefulness and flexibility in adapting to a human-dominated world, says lead author Scott MacIvor, a doctoral student at York University and a 2008 U of G graduate.

"Plastic waste pervades the global landscape," said MacIvor. Although researchers have shown adverse impacts of the material on species and the ecosystem, few scientists have observed insects adapting to a plastic-rich environment, he said.

"We found two solitary bee species using plastic in place of natural nest building materials, which suggests innovative use of common urban materials.

Figuring out that the bees were using plastics in place of natural materials took some detective work by U of G's Andrew Moore, supervisor of analytical microscopy at Laboratory Services.

Moore analyzed a grey "goo" that MacIvor discovered in the nests of one kind of bee, Megachile campanulae, which uses plant resins to build its nests,

"Scott thought it might be chewing gum originally," Moore said. His team uses a scanning electron microscope to take highly detailed pictures of items, x-ray microanalysis to determine the elements in the sample and infrared microscopy to identify polymers. They can distinguish the finest detail on the surface of an animal hair.

Turns out that M. campanulae was occasionally replacing plant resins with polyurethane-based exterior building sealant, such as caulking, in its brood cells--created in a nest to rear larva.

The researchers also discovered another kind of bee, Megachile rotundata, an alfalfa leafcutter, was using pieces of polyethylene-based plastic bags to construct its brood cells. The glossy plastic replaced almost one-quarter of the cut leaves normally used to build each cell.

Markings showed that the bees chewed the plastic differently than they did leaves, suggesting that the insects had not incidentally collected plastic. Nor were leaves hard to find for the bees in the study.

"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," Moore said.

In both cases, larvae successfully developed from the plastic-lined nests. In fact, the bees emerged parasite-free, suggesting plastic nests may physically impede parasites, the study said.

The nests containing plastic were among more than 200 artificial nest boxes monitored by MacIvor as part of a large-scale investigation of the ecology of urban bees and wasps, a project involving numerous citizen scientists.

The nest boxes are located in Toronto and the surrounding region in backyards, community gardens and parks and on green roofs. They are used by a variety of bee species.

"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," MacIvor said.


'/>"/>

Contact: Scott MacIvor
jsmacivor@gmail.com
416-844-8093
University of Guelph
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. From urban climate research to the treatment of incontinence
2. New study demonstrates the role of urban greenery in CO2 exchange
3. Britains urban rivers bounce back
4. Urban athletes show that for orangutans, it pays to sway
5. Scientists discover molecular link between circadian clock disturbances and inflammatory diseases
6. New UC Santa Barbara-based project to study contaminants in urban water environment
7. Natural regeneration building urban forests, altering species composition
8. Wind concentrates pollutants with unexpected order in an urban environment
9. Native plants in urban yards offer birds mini-refuges
10. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign awarded 5-year grant from NASA
11. Streams show signs of degradation at earliest stages of urban development
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:12/15/2016)... , Dec. 15, 2016  There is much ... doors or starting the engine. Continental will demonstrate the ... Las Vegas . Through the combination of ... and Entry) and biometric elements, the international technology company ... vehicle personalization and authentication. "The integration of ...
(Date:12/12/2016)... 12, 2016  Researchers at Trinity College, Dublin, ... by combining the material with Silly Putty. The mixture ... detector able to sense pulse, blood pressure, respiration, ... The research team,s findings were ... here:  http://science.sciencemag.org/content/354/6317/1257 ...
(Date:12/8/2016)... Dec. 8, 2016  Singulex, Inc., the leader in ... entered into a license and supply agreement with Thermo ... agreement provides Singulex access to Thermo Scientific BRAHMS PCT ... is used to diagnose systemic bacterial infection and ... to aid in assessing the risk of critically ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:1/19/2017)... 19, 2017  ArmaGen, Inc., today announced that ... as chief executive officer, as well as a ... to ArmaGen more than 17 years of executive ... of biotherapeutics and pharmaceuticals. "Mathias ... experience and skillset necessary to lead ArmaGen to ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... , ... January 18, 2017 , ... ... tech innovators, engineers, and scientists from around the world, was today awarded the ... awards program is based entirely on merit and decided upon by a dedicated ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... , Jan. 18, 2017 The ... reach USD 92.9 billion by 2025, according to ... Pharmaceutical industry has been adaptive of the function ... early as 2002. Among the services outsourced, clinical ... For instance, Johnson & Johnson was the first ...
(Date:1/19/2017)... LAKES, N.J. , Jan. 18, 2017 BD (Becton, ... technology company, announced today that it will host a live webcast ... at 1 p.m. (ET). The webcast can be ... be available for replay through Tuesday, January 31, 2017. ... About BD BD ...
Breaking Biology Technology: