The Discovery

We found out that the caterpillar of the moth Galleria mellonella can degrade Polyethylene within 1 hour from the contact. 

The larva (or caterpillar) of the the larva of the moth Galleria mellonella

The larva (or caterpillar) of the moth Galleria mellonella

Image credit: Cesar Hernandez/CSIC

cesar-hernandezcsic_gusanos-plastico-3

After being in contact with the wax worm for less than an hour, the plastic bag is full of holes

Image credit: Cesar Hernandez/CSIC

The worm habitat is the honeycomb, where it feeds on wax, hence the common name wax worm. Wax is a natural polymer.

 

It is made of a mixture of complex molecules but they similarities with
plastics, and with its long repetition of the Ch2-Ch2 bond

In this new light, it is comprehensible how these worms evolved a mechanism to break this chemical bond. What are the molecular details of the reaction? We do not know and this is exactly what we want to find out.

For details about the discovery, go to here

Supplemental Information: here

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