Raupen Die Plastik Fressen

In an accidental discovery, it has actually been uncovered that larvae des the greater wax moth eat und digest polyethylene plastic bags an record time. Will this find solve our plastic garbage problem?


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Federica Bertocchini has an exciting job and in amazing hobby.

Du schaust: Raupen die plastik fressen

She works as bei evolutionary biologist hinweisen theInstitute des Biomedicine and Biotechnology at Cantabria bei Spain und is a beekeeper in her cost-free time.

Almost von accident, she managed to fuse herpassion for bees with herstellung research. And,the an outcome may well be a solution zu our plastic rubbish problem.


A parasite bei the bee hive

It"s notfall only Federica Bertocchini that loves produziert beehives - ns same goes zum the better wax moths (Galleria mellonella). Ns parasite lays its eggs inside ns honeycomb. The larvae lives weil das six kommen sie seven weeks till they form cocoons und finally hatch together a neu butterfly.

One day, die passionate amateur beekeeper removed ns parasitic caterpillars from die beehive und stuffed them into a plastic polyethylene rubbish bag. But, in ~ a brief timethe larvae had eaten their way through die bag and out right into freedom.

It zu sein not entirely neu that die wax worms - together they are also known - are able zu eat their means through plastic. There are ample reports about this in online conversation boards amongstpet reptile loversand beekeepers alike. Reptile keepersuse wax worms as fodder for their pets. Ns larvae are deshalb popular bait used in sport fishing.


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Wax worms room feared über bee keepers, but they are regularly used together bait bei sport fishing or as fodder zum pet reptiles


Eating or deshalb digesting?

It stays unclear, however, whether die larvae simply eat ns plastic, nur to excrete it in a different form - as micro plastic particles - or whether they space able to digest it und turn it right into a various product ~ metabolism.

What is known, isthat die common clothesmoth not only destroys woollenpullovers, but deshalb those made von mixed fibres. However, ns clothesmoth just digests die woollen inhalt of the fabric - the horn - excretingthe man-made fibresas micro-plastic.

Biologist Bertocchini wanted zu know specifically what wake up with the worms invading herstellung beehives. So, she supplied spectroscopic analysis und foundthat there zu sein a difference bolzen the clothing moth und the wax moth. Ns latter does notfall excrete microplastic, yet actually transforms ns polyethylene into ethylene glycol.

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A time experiment

In participation withPaolo Bombelli and Christopher Howe from ns Department of Biochemistry at ns University des Cambridge, Bertocchini conducted bei experiment. Die researchers exposed 100 wax moth larvae zu a usual plastic bag from a brother supermarket. And waited to seen what happened.


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A laboratory test: the waxmorm eat their way through die plastic in under in hour


After just 40 minute the zuerst holes appeared bei the bag. After ~ 12 hours die larvae had consumed 92 milligrams des the plastic. (Fun fact: no bacteria is able to decompose deswegen much material an such a quick amount of time)

The Indian mealmoth (Plodia interpunctella) is deshalb able zu digest plastics with ns help von bacteria, albeit at a viel slower rate.Even chemistry decomposition methods, prefer using nitric acid zu break down plastic, tun können take months.

Beeswax is just one more polymer

Bertocchini suggests that die wax mothpossesses a specific enzyme, which is able zu break nach oben chemical binding that happen both in beeswax andpolyethylene molecules.


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"Wax zu sein a polymer, a sort of "natural plastic" and has a chemical structure notfall dissimilar to polyethylene," Bertocchini says.

Another sie wurden getestet underpins ns suspicion the there is an enzyme punkt work.

The researchers took some des the wax moth larvae und mashed them up. Climate they took ns substance und applied it straight to ns plastic bag. Und lo und behold, holes appeared in the bag.

Now, ns researchers are hoping zu identify the enzyme. If it is one work possible to produce it bei industrial quantities, one might either use it to decompose plastic bagsor even apply it kommen sie landfill sites, which blieb hold huge quantities von plastic.

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Roughly 40 percent of plasticproducts worlapplypaint.orgide are made von polyethylene. This amounts to 80 million tons von year.