MOST scientific research follows a logical progression, with one experiment following up on the findings of another. Every now and then, however, serendipity plays a part. Such is the case with a paper just published in Current Biology , which reveals to the world a moth capable of chewing up plastic. The experiment behind the paper was inspired when Federica Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper who is also a biologist at Cantabria University, in Spain, noticed caterpillars chewing holes through the wax in some of her hives and lapping up the honey. To identify them, she took some home in a plastic shopping bag. But when, a few hours later, she got around to looking at her captives she found the bag was full of holes and the caterpillars were roaming around her house. Get our daily newsletter After rounding them up, she identified them as larvae of the greater wax moth, a well-known pest of bee hives. On considering their escape from their shopping-bag prison, though, she wondered whether they might somehow be put to work as garbage-disposal agents. Past attempts to use living organisms to get rid of plastics have not gone well. Even the most promising species, […]

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