Microplastics are introduced into the food chain by mosquitoes and other flying insects that eat the waste when they hatch in water, scientists warn
- Insects such as mayflies, dragonflies and mosquitoes can transmit plastic shards
- These insects eat the microplastics as a larvae when they first hatch in water
- When eaten at a later date, the plastic waste is passed through to the next animal
- Microplastics are defined as shards of plastic measuring less than 5mm
Plastic may be entering the food chain from insects eating tiny pieces of plastic while they hatch in the water.
The latest research shows that insects such as mayflies, dragonflies, midges and mosquitoes can transmit plastic dumped in water into the food chain on land.
The researchers say that their findings mean that plastic dumped in oceans can find its way back on to land – carried by insects who hatch in seas.
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Insects such as mayflies, dragonflies, midges and mosquitoes can transmit plastic dumped in water into the food chain on land. This plastic then enters the food chain when larvae eat plastic whilst hatching in water (stock)
These insects are eaten by animals including birds, such as swifts and swallows, and bats – potentially causing health risks to these animals.
It has long been known that marine organisms such as fish and shellfish can be contaminated with plastics.
But the latest research is significant because until now there has been no evidence of microplastics transported by insects through the air.
In experiments, tiny microbeads of fluorescent polystyrene were eaten by mosquito larvae hatching in water.
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The plastic ‘was easily detected’ in the adult flies, the Reading University researchers led by Amanda Callaghan found.
The Daily Mail campaigned to ban microbeads in cosmetic products, which were banned in UK law in June.
Microplastics are defined as being plastics smaller than 5mm with common types being made of polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene.
They come in different shapes and sizes, including the form of fibres, pellets and cosmetic beads and can pass into the environment through household waste water where they end up in seas and lakes, often in high concentrations.
Microplastics are defined as being plastics smaller than 5mm with common types being made of polypropylene, polyethylene and polystyrene. Plastic waste is a pressing environmental concern for conservationists as it spreads around the world (stock)
Synthetic clothes are a major source of microplastics, entering the water when washed, as is the break-up of larger pieces of plastic such as bottles and plastic bags.
The researchers write in their paper, entitled ‘Up, up and away’ that ‘when many insects are emerging from a highly contaminated site, the possibility of contamination of these predators could be high.
‘While mosquitoes were used here as a model organism, any freshwater insect that can ingest MPs [microplastics] will likely equally transmit plastics into a terrestrial adult stage.
‘This has implications for organisms that feed on adult mosquitoes with aerial and terrestrial animals accordingly open to MP exposure.’
The study was published in Biology Letters, a journal of the Royal Society.
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