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Microplastics Are Not the Bee's Knees!!!

Updated: Apr 6, 2022

So far, we’ve explored microplastics in several different areas. We’ve got microplastics in the ocean, microplastics in fish and animals, microplastics in our food. The list goes on and on. And that’s not a good thing. This time around, we’re going to look at how microplastics are now affecting an animal I never would have even considered being affected. Buzz, buzz. It’s the bees.

Yes, microplastics are even affecting bees now, an animal species (I know, technically an insect, but insects are still animals!) that in recent years has already been through tons and tons of strife. Bee colonies have been ravaged by pesticides, lost due to malnutrition, assaulted by murder hornets, etc. I even recall something a few years ago about bees just straight up disappearing. That might be something worth checking out too. And, if you did not already know this, we depend on bees for our survival as well. Bees are responsible for the pollination of many plants across the world, including our own crops that we eat. Without bees, our crop fields would perish.

So, how do microplastics fit into all that doom and gloom above? Fortunately, they don’t. As of right now, anyway. At the time of this writing, not too much is known about the long term effects microplastics have on bees. However, Chinese scientists have observed a higher mortality rate in bees that have consumed microplastic particles and other chemicals. On their own, microplastics have been observed to not do any harm, but when mixed with other chemicals, they become more toxic and lethal.

Tiny microplastic particles on a magnified fingertip
Tiny microplastics

Now, that is another negative for bees, but there is a positive to be made out of the whole situation too! Bees can actually serve as a method for tracking microplastic pollution globally! Bees were first observed to be interacting with microplastic when scientists noticed the particles sticking to their backs; the same way that pollen does. Scientists can now track how microplastics travel, where they come from, and where they can congregate. I think that this fact can serve as a springboard for cleaning up microplastics. If there was a way to utilize the bees to eliminate any microplastic particles they pick up, that would be a huge breakthrough.

Bee covered in yellow pollen spots
Bee covered in pollen, but imagine those yellow spots as microplastics

This is a rather new discovery, so there is not a lot of research and observation out there yet. Every article I’ve looked at more or less discussed the same ideas, with a little more detail to the sciencey side of things. I will try my best to keep up with it and report it back on this thread in the future! In the meantime, tell me what you think about this discovery. Do you think that microplastics are a threat to bees like they are to many other animals and environments, or do you think that this could be beneficial to research into dealing with plastic pollution in the long run? Please let me know your thoughts down in the comments! We love hearing from you! Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy your weekend!

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