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Earth Science

Bees Are Building Nests With Our Waste Plastic 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the making-the-best-of-things dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "In a paper published in the Ecological Society of America's journal Ecosphere, researchers from York University and the University of Guelph in Canada explained that while plastic waste has previously been shown to have devastating impacts on the environment, less attention has been given to the resourcefulness of species in the face of their changing surroundings. "Plastic waste pervades the global landscape," they wrote. "Although adverse impacts on both species and ecosystems have been documented, there are few observations of behavioral flexibility and adaptation in species, especially insects, to increasingly plastic-rich environments.""
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Bees Are Building Nests With Our Waste Plastic

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  • by elysiuan (762931) on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:36AM (#46053929) Homepage

    "If it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic. The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allowed us to be spawned from it in the first place. It wanted plastic for itself. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to our age-old egocentric philosophical question, “Why are we here?”

    Plastic asshole.”

    • by Truth_Quark (219407) on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:52AM (#46053979) Journal

      The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth.

      The same can't be said of seabirds and turtles.

      • The earth doesn’t share our prejudice toward plastic. Plastic came out of the earth.

        The same can't be said of seabirds and turtles.

        Indeed. Chris Jordan's Midway Atoll [chrisjordan.com] filmshoot made me rethink using disposable plastic *anything*, especially bright colors: On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Oc

      • We dont know that shores of entire plastic that look just like sand are not more favorable than the the stuck in the odd six pack or eaten plastic bag unfavorable. Just something to consider.
    • by subreality (157447) on Friday January 24, 2014 @04:38AM (#46054361)

      Plastic asshole.

      I never expected a missing comma to redefine the meaning of life so vividly.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It's probably only a question of time before plastic IS biodegradeable. Nylon used to be non-biodegradeable too, then this [wikipedia.org] happened.

    • by Megane (129182)

      Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
      Benjamin: Yes, sir.
      Mr. McGuire: Are you listening?
      Benjamin: Yes, I am.
      Mr. McGuire: Plastics.
      Benjamin: Exactly how do you mean?
      Mr. McGuire: There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      You missed out the rather telling first lines:

      "We’re going away. Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away. And we won’t leave much of a trace, either. Maybe a little Styrofoam The planet’ll be here and we’ll be long gone. Just another failed mutation. Just another closed-end biological mistake. An evolutionary cul-de-sac. The planet’ll shake us off like a bad case of fleas. The planet will be here for a long, long, LONG time after we’re gone, and it will heal itself

    • by Evtim (1022085)

      Ben, I have one word for you, just one word - plastics! [I always hear Sid's voice in my head in such cases]

  • Not good news (Score:4, Informative)

    by mrbluze (1034940) on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:47AM (#46053965) Journal
    The plastic microparticles will inevitably appear in our honey. The filtration currently performed on honey is mainly for visual appearance,
    • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Friday January 24, 2014 @02:04AM (#46054009) Journal

      The plastic microparticles will inevitably appear in our honey.

      In order to make plastic "Plastic" many types of chemicals were used. Some of the chemicals make the plastic "elastic", while some others make them tough, or heat resistant, or whatever characteristics the end-product form of plastic is supposed to be.

      Some of those chemicals, when enter our bodies, can mimic the effect of Estrogen ( http://www.fastcompany.com/173... [fastcompany.com] ) and mess up our body's hormonal balances.

      Those insects might be resourceful, but the same estrogen mimicking chemical could also mess up the bee's biology too.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I doubt much of our honey comes from bees in the wild and bee farmers have no reason to starting using plastic nests

      • by mrbluze (1034940)

        I doubt much of our honey comes from bees in the wild and bee farmers have no reason to starting using plastic nests

        The bees don't ask the farmers where to find their building materials, unless the farmed bees are in an area devoid of plastic for several miles around the hive, there is nothing to say the bees won't harvest rotting plastic bags or building materials that might be lying around in the brush. Read the article!

        • by jafac (1449)

          On the contrary. Many farms are using plastic widely. From storage containers, to plastic sheeting used to trap moisture, to roofing on large greenhouses to protect plants from frost and wind.

          I don't recall seeing these practices much in the midwest, but in the west (particularly along the California coast) - you can see miles and miles of fields covered in this plastic sheeting. I assume it's in use elsewhere.

      • I doubt much of our honey comes from bees in the wild and bee farmers have no reason to starting using plastic nests

        Reasons: easier to mass produce, cheaper, lighter? The de facto standard Langstroth hive [wikipedia.org] (allegedly) was made to reuse the then-ubiquitous wooden crates for fuel tins, so it is not always suited to the dimensions/habits of all sub-species of bees. Even so, polystyrene [wikipedia.org] is sometimes used in its construction. I have seen a design using Corrrex (corrugated plastic board) adapted to the bee species (and wallets) in Africa, unfortunately can't find a link. Other plastic designs and components:

        • http://en.wikipedi
      • I doubt much of our honey comes from bees in the wild and bee farmers have no reason to starting using plastic nests

        Unless you are a designer hipster. Which might explain pajama boy ...

    • by Megane (129182)
      Except that these are nesting bees, not honeybees.
  • Not Just Bees (Score:5, Informative)

    by cusco (717999) <brian.bixby@gma i l .com> on Friday January 24, 2014 @01:48AM (#46053967)

    The bees aren't alone, I've seen plastic, ribbons, string, mylar, and cigarette butts incorporated into bird nests. Crows in fact seem to deliberately incorporate cigarette butts into their nests to exterminate pests.

  • Anyone else reminded of this?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... [youtube.com]

  • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday January 24, 2014 @03:12AM (#46054165) Homepage Journal
    Bees love decorating their house with plastic garbage too? How long before we get a site dedicated to white-trash bees [beesofwalmart.com]
  • Colony collapse (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder whether all the chemicals in various plastics could be responsible for colony collapse in bees. What happens if they're making their homes out of materials that are toxic to them?

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Interesting, but the "colonies" in question are human-raised bee hives; if incorporation of plastic into the hives was an important factor, it would have become obvious to the farmers, and later to investigators studying the hives for potential pathogens.

  • The Wombles [wikipedia.org] have been doing this for years.

  • help the bees, drop that plastic bag!
  • One of the axioms of ecosystem change is that it favours opportunistic species over slowly-adapting ones. Most opportunistic species are known as pests because their opportunism is incompatible with our preference for controlled environments (weeds finding niches in gardens, rats finding niches in buildings) but it'd be interesting to speculate about opportunists we actually like.

  • "The study even suggested that those species that adapt to increasingly plastic environments might have an advantage in urban areas over those that don’t "

    Roaches, Rats, Pigeons... They only realized that now??

  • The fundamental fact about plastic is that it is, well, plastic. Suppose we research the optimum shapes and sizes for bee-friendly plastic bits, and then intentionally set these out for their use? Bonus points for making it biodegradable over time or under specific environmental conditions, such as cold winter weather.
  • I have observed great adaptation as well: Turtle doves (streptopelia turtur) feeding nutritious tiny styrofoam pieces to their young.
  • Bees evolve to use plastic.
    The evolved bees choke out the other bees.
    Man devises a plastic substitute.
    The evolved bees die.
    Food doesn't get pollinated.
    Mass starvation.
    What a tragedy.

  • Given the know dangers of Bisphenol A [wikipedia.org] in plastic. I wonder if this has any connection with Colony collapse disorder [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    As an engineer who believes in responsible use of plastics, I drink from disposable PET plastic water bottles all the time, I eat my food stored in plastic containers, I often eat my food on a plastic coated paper plate. The only thing I do not do is cook with plastic or re-heat food in plastic containers. I want all of the enviro-morons to be forced into concentration camps and live for a year without plastic of any kind. Most of them would die from infection, disease, food poisoning, chemical burns, and

  • Bees seem to be smarter than some animals. Especially the ones stupid enough to feed plastic to their offspring. Let's let natural selection take its course.
  • Unless you like the smell of burning polyurethane ...

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