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.

Heroes

Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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Culture
via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

RELATED: This service dog and veteran are raising awareness for PTSD in inspiring ways

"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

RELATED: This sneaky guide dog is too pure for this world. A hilarious video proves it.

The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

Inclusivity

Graphic helps identify what triggers you emotionally in relationships

Knowing your triggers helps you manage your emotions.

via Blessing Manifesting / Instagram

Learning your emotional triggers on your own is one thing but figuring out your triggers in a relationship adds another layer of intensity. Maybe you're afraid of being abandoned or want to feel the need to push the other person away but you don't know why.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. It's why artist and mental health advocate Dominee Wyrick created a graphic to help you identify what triggers you in relationships.

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Well Being

15 'habits' of people who grew up with an 'emotionally fragile' parent

Having an emotionally fragile parent can leave lasting damage.

via The Mighty

If you grew up with an "emotionally fragile" parent, chances are, you didn't have the typical, idyllic childhood you often see in movies.

Maybe your parent lived with debilitating depression that thrust you into the role of caregiver from a very young age.

Maybe your parent was always teetering on the edge of absolute rage, so you learned to tiptoe around them to avoid an explosion. Or maybe your parent went through a divorce or separation, and leaned on you for more emotional support than was appropriate to expect of a child.

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Family