Plastic trash is gross. These hungry caterpillars might be able to help us get rid of it.

We learn a lot by paying attention to the little things — in this case, the very little, bug-sized things.

That's what biologist and amateur beekeeper Federica Bertocchini noticed while tending to her beehives in Madrid.

To keep her bees healthy and happy, Bertocchini has to remove pests that move into the hives, including a tiny beeswax-munching caterpillar known as the wax worm.


A comb full of beeswax is a tasty meal for wax worms. Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

One day, Bertocchini was clearing out the worms, placing them in a plastic grocery bag. After working for a while, she discovered the plastic bag had developed a bunch of little holes.

The worms were eating their way out!

Plastic-eating caterpillars? Yep, they're real.

What's a freak event to one person can be inspiration to a scientist. Bertocchini decided to put the little critters to the test.

She rounded up some colleagues and gave the caterpillars more polyethylene bags to munch on. Polyethylene makes up about 40% of Europe's plastic demand. Sure enough, the caterpillars started eating through those bags, digesting the plastic, and turning it into ethylene glycol, an odorless compound found in antifreeze.

Taking a step back, Bertocchini's team said this actually makes sense. The worms normally eat wax to survive, and wax and plastic aren't that different, chemically. But this discovery could have big consequences for the environment.

A new way to digest plastic could make a difference both on land and in the ocean.

Humans love their plastic — plastic bottles, milk jugs, sandwich baggies — but unfortunately, we don't pay that much attention to what happens after we use it. Scientists estimate 4 million to 12 million metric tons of plastic enters the oceans each year.

Trash in Manila Bay in 2014. Photo from Jay Directo/AFP/Getty Images

And while ethylene glycol — what the worms are pooping out — isn't exactly great for the environment either, the substance breaks down in weeks instead of the decades or centuries that a polyethylene bag might take.

Caterpillars, bacteria, and other critters have been seen eating or breaking down plastic bags before, though Bertocchini's team said the wax worms broke down plastic faster than any other recent discoveries.

This is a really cool example of scientists learning from nature.

Though the digestion happened pretty quickly compared to other methods, it still took 100 worms 12 hours to eat through a little more than 90 milligrams of plastic. It would take those worms about a month to break down one plastic bag.

Bertocchini and her team don't yet know what exactly it is inside the wax worms that's breaking down the plastic — it might be an enzyme or some kind of gut bacteria — but once they figure that out, they might be able to supercharge the process and harness it for good.

In a news release, Bertocchini's team said they want to find a way to use this discovery to clean up our rivers and oceans. Their paper was published in the scientific journal Current Biology.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.
File:Pornhub-logo.svg - Wikimedia Commons

A 2015 survey conducted by the National Union of Students found that 60% of respondents turned to porn to fill in the gaps in sex education. While 40% of those people said they learned a little, 75% of respondents said they felt porn created unrealistic expectations when it comes to sex. Some of the unrealistic expectations from porn can be dangerous. A study found that 88% of porn contained violence, and another study found that those who consumed porn were more likely to become sexually aggressive.

But now the thing that breaks those unrealistic expectations… might also be porn? Pornhub has launched a sex education section.

The adult website's first series is simply titled, "Pornhub Sex Ed" and contains 11 videos and is accessible through the Pornhub Sexual Wellness Center. The section also contains articles, some showing real anatomy and examples in order to bust myths people may have picked up on other portions of the website.

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A lot of people here are like family to me," Michelle says about Bread for the City — a community nonprofit located in Washington DC that provides local residents with food, clothing, health care, social advocacy, and legal services. And since the pandemic began, the need to support organizations like Bread for the City is greater than ever, which is why Amazon is Delivering Smiles to local charities across the country this holiday season.

Watch the full story:

Amazon is giving back by fulfilling hundreds of AmazonSmile Charity Lists, and donating essential pantry and food items to help organizations like Bread for the City provide to those disproportionately impacted this year.

Visit AmazonSmile Charity Lists to donate directly to a local charity in your community, or simply shop smile.amazon.com and Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price of eligible products to your charity of choice.

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

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While many of us have understandably let the challenges of 2020 get under our skin and bring us down, a young man from Florida was securing his place in the Guinness Book of World Records. Chris Nikic became the first person with Down syndrome to complete a full triathlon.

For the majority of people, a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride or a 26.2 mile run would be difficult on its own. The Ironman competition requires participants to complete them all in one grueling race. In a statement, Special Olympics Florida President and CEO Sherry Wheelock called Chris "an inspiration to all of us." She continued, "We are incredibly proud of Chris and the work he has put in to achieve this monumental goal. He's become a hero to athletes, fans, and people across Florida and around the world."

Nikic's journey to become an Ironman started off as a challenge far less lofty. He and his father, Nik, created the "1 percent better challenge." The idea was to keep Chris motivated during the pandemic and beyond. According to The Washington Post, the idea was for Chris to improve his workouts by one percent each day because he "doesn't like pain" but loves "food, videos games and my couch." The plan was to keep building strength and stamina while keeping his eye on the grand prize of completing a triathlon. Nik told the Panama City News Herald, "I was concerned because after high school and after graduation a lot of kids with Down syndrome become isolated and just start living a life of isolation. I said, 'Look, let's go find him something to get him back into the world and get him involved,' so we started looking around and we were fortunate that at the same time Special Olympics Florida started this triathlon program, and I thought, 'What a great way to get him started, get him in shape and get him to make some friends.'"


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