Agricultural plastic waste can modify the behavior and diversity of wildlife. This was confirmed by a study that recorded that bees have built nests with this material derived from oil.
The large amount of plastic containers and bags of various agrochemicals and other inputs used by agriculture remain in the environment after use and can modify the diversity and behavior of wildlife.
This was confirmed by an investigation by the Faculty of Agronomy of the UBA (FAUBA) in collaboration with the Institute of Research and Technological Development for Family Farming of the Cuyo Region (INTA) when it found, for the first time in the world, a nest bee house constructed entirely of two types of plastic waste in a seed production field in the province of San Juan.
“It was a chance find. It happened while we were surveying what pollinators were in the area. Bees are an important group and in general, there are some that build wax combs where they live in community —the best known— and others that are solitary and build nests from plant debris they obtain from their environment. To register the latter, we place wooden blocks with a hole —traps— where these insects usually nest, "said Juan Pablo Torretta, professor of the General Botany Department at FAUBA.
“We had set more than 60 traps and in one of them we registered the first honeycomb in the world made up entirely of plastic parts. In addition, we found that the insect used two different types of this petroleum-derived material to build the three cells that make up the nest. The first two were made of a thin light blue plastic and the last one of a thicker white plastic. The bee cut more than 20 pieces of waste bags and placed them one by one in the shape of a barrel inside the wood, "he added from the study published in the scientific journal Apidologie.
The bee responsible for this plastic nest belongs to a species ofMegachile. They are solitary and some build their nests in holes. They use plant materials, such as pieces of leaves, petals and clay, to build cells where they lay an egg in each one, along with pollen and nectar so that when the larvae emerge, they can feed.
The researchers cannot determine if the bee replaced the leaves and petals it normally uses to build its nest due to a lack of available vegetation or if it preferred to build it out of plastic for some unknown reason.
In any case, the finding highlights the flexibility of these insects to respond to changes in the environment and to use alternative materials in their nests.
“Our registry not only shows the impact of human activities on the diversity and behavior of the main insects responsible for the pollination ecosystem service, a fundamental factor to sustain agricultural production. It also shows the high level of contamination by residues of agricultural activity in the fields ”, warned Torretta, who is also a researcher at Conicet.
The teacher indicated that wild bees are in a state of risk since to feed their young they must collect pollen and, therefore, they need an abundance and diversity of flowers. "The current model of agriculture, in addition to homogenizing the availability of flowers of plant species and limiting them to a certain time of year, also wants to have clean and bright fences. Without weeds, the number and diversity of flowers is reduced, and the bees follow the same trend ”.
With information from: