The Humble Waxworm
The worms in question aren’t anything special, and we’ve known about them for quite some time. The waxworm is actually a species of caterpillar, best known for being used to feed pet reptiles such as lizards, along with replacing mammals in some scientific experiments. However, they’re also known for infesting bee colonies and digging into the wax there.
An Accidental Discovery
One beekeeper, Professor Federica Bertocchini, gathered up some waxworms and put them in a plastic bag before discovering something quite incredible. The worms had created holes in the bag! She decided to put her discovery to the test with the help of two other scientists, Christopher J. Howe and Paolo Bombelli. They repeated the experiment, only this time they put 100 waxworms in a plastic bag.
Eating Through It
What happened was quite remarkable. Within 40 minutes the worms began to make holes, and after 12 hours the entire mass of the plastic had decreased by 92mg. The scientists tested how the worms were breaking down the bag by crushing a few and smearing them on the bag. The same thing happened, proving that there’s an enzyme in the waxworms that helps them digest the plastic.
While the findings are still quite new, this is a discovery that could eventually help to reverse decades of damage to our planet.