“The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” by Eric Carle, was one of my favorite books when I was a kid. The iconic illustrations and the way the little guy ate through apples, plums and strawberries made me wonder if I was a caterpillar at heart because I liked the same things. He even ate through pickles and salami. But never once did he eat a plastic bag.
At least not until Federica Bertocchini, a scientist and amateur beekeeper, removed an infestation of wax moth larvae from one of her hives and put them in a plastic bag. To her surprise, the worms simply ate their way out, according to an article in The Guardian.
In lab tests, researchers discovered that 100 worms can devour 92 milligrams of polyethylene in as little as 12 hours. The grubs appear to break down polyethylene with the same enzymes they use for eating beeswax, notes the article. The possibilities are promising in terms of pollution control.
Traci Purdum is Chemical Processing’s senior digital editor. Her other favorite books from her childhood are “The Velveteen Rabbit,” by Margery Williams and “Where the Redfern Grows,” by Wilson Rawls. You can email her your favorite book titles at firstname.lastname@example.org.