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Does New York City Have Any Help Disposing of Its Garbage?

Don’t be so quick to hate on those creepy-crawly insects and spiders that share our world. They’re on our side. Research conducted in Manhattan, led by an entomologist from North Carolina State University, found in 2014 that dozens of species of bugs -- including ants, spiders, millipedes, cockroaches, and flies -- help keep our world free from discarded food waste. In fact, the researchers found that along Manhattan's Broadway/West Street corridor, bugs can eat 2,100 pounds (950 kg) of food waste each year, the weight equivalent of 60,000 hot dogs. “If insects weren't eating all of this food, it would accumulate and be foul," said study leader Elsa Youngsteadt.

Bugs and litterbugs:

  • Researchers used caged food traps in urban parks and along medians in Manhattan, spiked with fast-food litter. They also left traps out in the open for larger animals, such as rats, pigeons, squirrels, and birds.

  • The researchers found that arthropods ate 32 percent of the caged food in 24 hours. At the traps left in the open, they noted that animals (including arthropods) gobbled up 80 percent of the food.

  • Certain types of food waste were especially popular. "The arthropods definitely preferred the chips and cookies to the hot dogs," says Youngsteadt, whose research was published in Global Change Biology.

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More Info: Smithsonian magazine

Discuss this Article

anon1002457
Post 2

Learn from the arthropods!

anon1002455
Post 1

Just wondering if any homeless people also ate some of the food left out? Not trying to be rude or heartless--just curious.

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