Outdoors just for kids: Some bees find plastic is perfect for nests

2014-05-08T00:00:00Z Outdoors just for kids: Some bees find plastic is perfect for nests The Billings Gazette

Bees are amazing little bugs. They hum around at this time of year seeking out flowers and blossoms on trees in search of nectar. As they fly from flower to flower, they spread pollen that helps the plants reproduce.

Scientists keep finding out amazing things about bees. Years ago they discovered that bees have different dances to communicate with each other. Now they’ve found that bees that live in cities are making an unusual change.

Two types of bees in Canada have been using plastic in place of natural materials when building their nests. Researchers discovered what they thought was chewing gum in a nest. But after looking more closely with specialized X-rays, they found out it was similar to the caulking that we use to seal gaps around windows and doors on our houses.

Then they found that another bee species, known as an alfalfa leafcutter, was chopping up plastic bags to make its nests, even though there were plenty of leaves around that they could have used.

The bees chopped up the plastic, chewed it and spit it out like gum to form a material they could use. In both cases, the bee’s larvae developed fine from the plastic-lined nests and were even free of parasites. So maybe the bees chose the plastic to keep parasites away, proving once again that bees are a lot smarter than we think.

— Brett French,

Gazette Outdoors editor

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Brett French

Outdoors editor for the Billings Gazette.

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