Usually, bees will build their nests out of natural materials such as mud, leaves, stone, petals, tree resin, and whatever else they can scavenge.
In the past, nests have been found that had plastics incorporated in with these natural materials. Now, for the first time, in Argentina, researchers have found a bees nest built entirely out of plastic.
Wild bees in Argentina have been found to be making nests entirely out of plastic, resulting in a lower survival rate.
Researchers from Argentina’s National Agricultural Technology Institute discovered the plastic nests as part of their research into chicory pollinators. The team set up 63 trap nests around crop fields, similar to bee hotels that you can set up for solitary bees. Bees will then build up cosy nests in these hollow structures, usually from natural materials, as a safe place for their larva to grow into healthy adult bees.
One of the nests observed was made entirely out of plastic, mostly thin blue plastic that was probably once a plastic bag, and some thicker white plastic. Within this nest, two cells were occupied with larva, one of which died and one which grew into a healthy adult bee.
A survival rate of one in two indicates that a nest made of plastic isn’t the worst environment for bee survival, but it certainly isn’t the best either.
For comparison, the other two nests that were made from natural materials had five healthy bees emerge from them, and no dead larva were found within them.
Although this news seems to be all bad, it does show us that bees have adaptive flexibility that allows them to keep up with an ever-changing environment. The researchers wrote that “it could highlight bees’ response capacity in the search for alternative materials for the construction of their nests in the face of human disturbance.”