Bees in the wild build first plastic hive

Posted by Gabrielle Jacobs on 7 June 2019

Scientists have long known that animals can adapt to their environments in incredible ways, and use rubbish or litter from humans to build their nests, for example. For the first time, however, researchers have observed a colony of hive bees that have constructed hives entirely from plastic.

Unlike conventional bee species, wild bees build smaller, oval-shaped nests with holes at the bottom through which they burrow and lay their larvae. A research team from Argentina built wooden hive structures comprised of wooden slats arranged close and parallel to one another for the wild bees to nest in.

The wild bees in this study, however, used soft, thin plastic (likely from a packet) to line the wooden hive structure. The presence of organic and naturally occurring conventional materials were prevalent, but the wild bees chose to forgo these items – mud, leaves and petals, for example – when making one of their nests. The bees built two nests from natural materials, where larvae were laid. A third nest, built from and lined with the softer plastic and then some harder plastic, remained empty, however.

Resins from plant matter usually aid in construction, and it’s thought that the likes of resins and similar materials used to make plastic bags, for example, could offer a similar utility. The bees bite and reconstruct the materials into smaller pieces and overlay the film-like plastic.

While a handful of bees were successfully born from the conventional nests, it remains to be seen whether larvae could survive if the bees decide to lay eggs there.

Other animals, particularly bird species, have been known to decorate their nests or construct them using manmade objects like cigarette butts (containing organic compounds) which deter parasites.

This new observation of bee nests has been published in the journal Apidologie. Experts agree that more research and behavioural observation is required before any real conclusions can be made.

Image: Pixabay

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