Many people have been annoyed by the presence of the wax worm for decades. In fact, it is most well-known for the pest problem it creates in Europe. What we citizens of the world didn’t know though is that the wax worm is helping the environment by eating plastic bags.
Yes, a plastic-eating caterpillar may help save the world and here’s how…
What You Need to Know About the ‘Plastic-Eating Caterpillar’
The fact that the wax worm eats plastic was discovered by an amateur beekeeper in Spain. She found the wax worms in one of her beehives and removed them, placing them in a plastic bag. She was surprised to find that the worms ate through the plastic bag at an alarming rate.
So, that has gotten scientists wondering what else the stomach of this plastic-eating caterpillar can handle. What if the wax worm could break down polyethylene (aka plastic bags, which currently filling up landfills around the world) on a regular basis?
How a ‘Plastic-Eating Caterpillar’ May Change the World
The answer to that question is yes. The plastic-eating caterpillar can also digest polyethylene, as shown in the video above. Wax worms are actually more efficient at eating through plastic bags than any other method tried by scientists previously.
The Spanish beekeeper that discovered this about the wax worm collaborated with scientists to discover just how well these plastic-eating caterpillars are able to, well, eat plastic. They discovered that they ate through plastic bags at an alarming rate and there’s a science to it.
A wax worm’s enzymes are what aids the breakdown of plastic, according to the study published in the scientific journal “Biology.” The scientists were able to confirm that it is the enzymes in the caterpillar’s body causing the breakdown by mashing the bodies of a few worms on bags (with similar results to them eating the bag). If scientists are able to replicate this enzyme it could help alleviate the effects of pollution around the world.
Think about the number of plastic items and plastic bags you through out just on a weekly basis. Plastic bags fill up landfills around the world. If scientists are able to focus the efforts of these plastic-eating caterpillars they could slow down some of the affects of the pollution caused by plastic bags and other plastic items being thrown away. This tiny organism has the ability to change the world one plastic bag at a time.
Want more information about the plastic-eating caterpillar, check out the video below.
Photo: Gecko Forums