In very recent news, researchers at Cambridge University have discovered a type of insect which is able to digest polyethylene, also known as plastic. Plastic, a non-biodegradable material, has been piling in landfills and kitchen drawers (in anticipation of parties requiring red Solo cups) for decades upon decades, unable to decompose and dispose of itself. These insects – the larvae of wax moths – appeared at first to be perfect solutions to this problem. However, scientists quickly realized the attempt to be futile as the insects immediately began eating people’s fly swatters.
“Like any organism, these wax moth larvae, also referred to as waxworms, are doing everything in their power to survive,” explained Dr. Aynthuh L. Andphilz, a tenured professor of insect digestion powers. “By observing the behavior humans display with regard to flies – e.g. screaming, bringing a family member into the room to say ‘there’s a fly,’ quietly creeping up on the fly because the fly definitely forgot you were there despite your screaming, and whacking it several times with a fly swatter – these waxworms were able to determine their optimal strategy for survival in a human-dominated world. With their ability to digest plastic, waxworms began to attack the human’s main weapon of choice: the fly swatter.”
While waxworms may not be the fastest eaters, a large quantity of them may be capable of reducing the amount of wasted plastic on our planet. However, many scientists are concerned. Wax moths feed on the wax bees use to make honeycombs, which is detrimental to bee colonization. With plummeting bee populations and the absolute necessity for bees in the ecosystem for pollination and stinging annoying people purposes, breeding waxworms may be a dangerous gamble. In addition, the plummeting of fly swatter populations would likely prove catastrophic as well. Fly swatters, a natural predator of every single insect that isn’t “too scary,” are an important member of the food chain. Without fly swatters, insect populations could easily spiral out of control.
“They may not be a solution, but they’re a start,” said Andphilz. “We certainly have a lot of questions to answer practically, scientifically, politically, economically, and ethically. But we hope it’s a step in the right direction. Once we can figure out how to hide our fly swatters, we can figure out how these waxworms can help humans lead more sustainable lives.”
At press time, The Sweaty Penguin got word that a fly swatter company began creating fly swatters out of metal wire which would give an electric zap to insects. Each electric zap releases a small amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which environmentalists estimate is about as harmful as the existence of a plastic spoon.