Near City Streets, an Insect Cleaning Crew

9:08 minutes

Drop a bite of your sandwich? Don’t worry, it won’t go to waste—at least not in the city. In work published this week in the journal Global Change Biology, insect ecologist Elsa Youngsteadt and colleagues tested the ability of urban scavengers to sweep up discarded food such as potato chips, cookies, and chunks of hot dog from alongside busy streets in New York City, and from urban parks. They found that scavenging insects—especially ants—can rapidly remove food scraps from the urban environment, leaving less food waste to attract vertebrate species such as rats and pigeons. The researchers estimate that arthropods alone could remove over four kilograms of food each year from a single street median.

Segment Guests

Elsa Youngsteadt

Elsa Youngsteadt is an insect ecologist and research associate at the department of entomology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

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About Charles Bergquist

As Science Friday’s director and senior producer, Charles Bergquist channels the chaos of a live production studio into something sounding like a radio program. Favorite topics include planetary sciences, chemistry, materials, and shiny things with blinking lights.

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