New research sees two species of bees choosing plastic to build their hives

leaf cutter bee
Ecosphere Plastic Bee Nests
Ecosphere plastic bee nests

It seems that two bee species are eschewing traditional building materials in favour of plastic.

The findings are contained in Bees collect polyurethane and polyethylene plastics as novel nest materials, by York University Faculty of Science PhD Candidate Scott MacIvor, published in the journal Ecosphere.

MacIvor observed and documented the use of plastic by two solitary bee species in place of natural nest building material. In both cases, larvae successfully developed and emerged from the plastic-lined nests. These finding suggest innovative use of common urban materials.

The two bee species described in the publication chose plastic materials that have physical properties similar to the natural materials sought. The exotic Alfalfa Leaf cutter bee, which normally collects cut leaf and flower pieces, had collected similarly sized pieces of a white polyethelene-based plastic grocery bag. The Campanula Resin Bee, Megachile campanulae, collected a polyurethane-based sealant instead of the normal pine resin.

The bee nests containing plastic were found among more than 200 artificial nest boxes used by a variety of bee species as part of a large-scale investigation of the ecology of urban bees and wasps that was led by MacIvor and involved numerous citizen scientists. The nest boxes are set up in Toronto and the surrounding region in backyards, community gardens, parks and green roofs.


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