It's hard to be a bee these days, what with the sinister—and still mysterious—Colony Collapse Disorder decimating millions of hives over the past decade. But a few highly resourceful Canadian species have started adapting new nesting techniques, using plain old everyday plastic garbage to build their homes.
Rather than going for plants and organic matter to produce their brood cells, these urban bees instead developed a taste for exterior building sealant and plastic bags; not only that, but they actually targeted these materials, as the leaves traditionally used weren't readily available.
"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," Andrew Moore, supervisor of analytical microscopy at Laboratory Services, told Phys.Org.
Incredibly, the larvae that developed were also completely parasite-free, meaning there could be something in this strange new mixture that actually discourages parasite growth.
In some ways, it seems sad to know that bees need to adapt because we're trashing the environment—kind of like when you see a hermit crab using a soda cap or a piece of junk as a makeshift shell—but this seems like an incredible development. A while back, Gizmodo reported on the real-world/sci-fi potential of bees producing plastic from pollen and feral insects "3D printing" rogue additions to the cityscape. Here's hoping they've got some more tricks up their sleeves to help save themselves from extinction; we depend on those little buzzers for a hell of a lot. [Phys.Org]