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Mealworms eat Polystyrene?


wcbpolish
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A friend forwarded me this article... it seems too good to be true. Thoughts?

news.stanford.edu/news/2015/september/worms-digest-plastics-092915.html

A short quote:

In the lab, 100 mealworms ate between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam – about the weight of a small pill – per day. The worms converted about half of the Styrofoam into carbon dioxide, as they would with any food source.

Within 24 hours, they excreted the bulk of the remaining plastic as biodegraded fragments that look similar to tiny rabbit droppings. Mealworms fed a steady diet of Styrofoam were as healthy as those eating a normal diet, Wu said, and their waste appeared to be safe to use as soil for crops.

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I saw this a few months ago, pretty cool stuff. It would be cool if we could get rid of most of our plastic and turn it into dirt!

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But seriously, just think about it... If this potentially world- changing discovery about one of the first and most commonly studied feeder insects went unnoticed for this long, just think about what some of the millions of undiscovered and unstudied insects could be capable of. Maybe somewhere there's an insect that can eat plastic water bottles?

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It seems unbelievable. Imagine if I could put some styrofoam in my mealworm culture and not have to worry about mites and moisture levels. And yet, other beetle larvae I have refuse to eat (let alone digest) the small pieces of sytrofoam that end up in collected leaves. I'm going to put my mealworm culture next to my cold fusion generator.

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I saw this a few months ago. After seeing it, I tried giving styrofoam packing peanuts to my bugs. Hissers won't eat it. Banana roaches and isopods might. But my native darkling beetle collection definitely will eat them. They don't seem to love it, but they eat it. Now I recycle my styrofoam into bugs along with all my cardboard. Honestly, bugs are going to be the future of green initiatives. They are just so good at recycling things. Someone should really try to cultivate mealworms that really love the stuff. Should be too hard to do some selective breeding projects. Or maybe just get a ton of mealworms to start with and only feed them styrofoam and let selection take its own course from there.

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I suspect that a plastic based diet alone would not be nutritionally sufficient (especially since polystyrene has no P or N in it... at some point the bugs would need to make proteins and nucleic acids). The original article said they were sustained for 1 mo on styrofoam. I suspect that other micronutrients would be needed at some point. And then there's the whole issue of bio-accumulation of whatever toxins might be in the foam... so probably not a great food for "feeder" insects.

But as a whole, I think it is pretty neat, and at some point in the future I might try this.

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