A new study reveals that two urban bee species in Canada make nests out of plastic waste.

"It's an important discovery because it shows bees' resourcefulness and flexibility in adapting to a human-dominated world," says lead author Scott MacIvor, a doctoral student at York University and Ontario-based University of Guelph graduate.

"Plastic waste pervades the global landscape," said MacIvor, adding that few scientists have observed insects adapting to a plastic-rich environment.

They found two solitary bee species using plastic in place of natural nest building materials, which suggests innovative use of common urban materials.

They analysed a grey 'goo' that MacIvor discovered in the nests of one kind of bee - Megachile campanulae - which uses plant resins to build its nests. The team used a scanning electron microscope to take highly detailed pictures of the items.

The bee was occasionally replacing plant resins with polyurethane-based exterior building sealant, such as caulking, in its brood cells, they discovered.

The researchers also discovered another bee - Megachile rotundata - was using pieces of polyethylene-based plastic bags to construct its brood cells.

"The plastic materials had been gathered by the bees, and then worked - chewed up and spit out like gum - to form something new that they could use," the researchers said."The novel use of plastics in the nests of bees could reflect the ecologically adaptive traits necessary for survival in an increasingly human-dominated environment," MacIvor added.

The research was published recently in journal Ecosphere.


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