Charmain Williams

Republic of South Africa

University of Pretoria

Feasibility of Using Galleria Mellonella Larvae as a Means to Address Plastic Pollution 


Plastic pollution is a major source of pollution worldwide and polyethylene is one of the most commonly produced plastics. The larvae of the moth Galleria mellonela can metabolize polyethylene plastic into ethylene glycol due to the presence of certain strains of intestinal bacteria. Studies have indicated that certain species of animals prefer plastic to natural food sources, raising the question of whether this applies to Galleria mellonella.

Galleria mellonella larvae were placed in three units, ten in one and two, eighteen in three, with known masses of beeswax and an LDPE/LLDPE polymer in the first two respectively, and both in the third. After 21 hours the larvae were removed from the first two and the masses of the remaining material measured; in the third observations were made for 40min on how they behaved in a faux natural environment. Approximately 650mg of beeswax were consumed in the first unit and 20mg of plastic in the second. The larvae all consumed only beeswax in unit three. These results indicate that it would not be viable to use Galleria mellonella larvae in their intact forms to biodegrade plastic as their affinity for it both biologically and instinctively appears to be less than for beeswax.