Waxworm Wonders

Caterpillars Offer Clues to Plastic Cleanup




monticelloSefa Kaya

Waxworms, a type of caterpillar, are vexing to beekeepers because they devour the wax that bees use to build honeycombs. It turns out that they can do the same to plastic. Ongoing worldwide research reveals several types of bacteria found in waxworms that digest some kinds of plastic at rates that vary from weeks to months.

Scientist Federica Bertocchini, at the Spanish National Research Council, mashed up a quantity of the greater wax moth and applied the paste to polyethylene. After half a day, about 13 percent of the plastic had disappeared.

She collaborated with biochemists at the University of Cambridge to analyze this chemical decomposition of the plastic. They discovered that some of the substance is converted into ethylene glycol, a sign that it was genuinely being degraded. The carbon-to-carbon bonds found in polyethylene are also present in the wax that the caterpillars eat.

Susan Selke, director of the Michigan State University School of Packaging, remarks, “The hunt for organisms that can degrade plastics is on. Right now, we don’t have a good solution for dealing with the plastics that are piling up on our planet.”


This article appears in the April 2018 issue of Natural Awakenings.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

‘Sink’ Setback

Logging, drought and wildfires may be turning forests in Africa, Asia and Latin America into carbon emitters rather than absorbers.

Clear Gain

Scientists have developed a transparent, luminescent solar concentrator that looks like clear glass that could potentially supply two-fifths of U.S. energy needs.

Top Polluters

New research shows that a 100 fossil-fuel producers globally are responsible for 71 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions during the last 30 years.

Add your comment:
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »This Month

Pampamesayok Shaman School Begins in Medfield

Join Julie Hannon of Inner Peace and Wellness on a shamanic journey, January 4 to 6, plus three additional weekends, at the Hawthorne Farm Retreat Center, in Medfield.

Wireless Warning

The explosion of wireless technology within one generation has been dramatic and created many benefits such as convenience and connectivity, but at what price?

Wellness Professional Networking Event Focuses on the Power of Facebook Groups

Soul Being and Natural Awakenings will cohost a wellness professionals networking event from 6:45 to 8 p.m., December 13, at Newton Chiropractic & Wellness, in Newton Upper Falls.

Special Packages and Memberships Available at Cloud-9 Float & Wellness

Cloud-9 Float & Wellness is now offering unlimited packages and monthly memberships for all services.

SCENAR Therapy: Untapped Potential of Human Healing

Therapy Spotlight
Thousands of doctors, various health practitioners, Olympic athletes and everyday people are using and enjoying SCENAR, a miraculous modality of energy medicine to stay healthy and young.

Pampamesayok Shaman School Begins in Medfield

Join Julie Hannon for 12 Days to an Awakened Life – A Shamanic Journey to Your Center, to be held from January 4 to 6, plus three additional weekends on February 1 to 3, March 22 to 24, and May 18 to 20.