NYC’s garbage disposal is not an easy job. For a city with over 8 million citizens bustling across the packed streets, going by their day-to-day life, trash tends to pile up. And just like any other jungle, be it concrete or natural, it does not fall behind when it comes to the grand insect and critter ecosystems that emerge in it.
What is not so much common knowledge outside the general reluctance towards any creature with an unfeasible amount of legs is that their existence makes up for an outstanding amount of garbage being erased off the pavement thanks to them. A recent experiment performed in the Big Apple helped scientists pinpoint some interesting facts and numbers about insect’s contribution to garbage disposal in New York City.
By scattering a buffet of snacks and fast foods in parks and road meridians, scientists attempted to figure out just how much of the waste serves as sustenance for the critters and to what extent it is removed through the help of the creatures. The result? An estimate of 2,100 pounds of garbage is annually consumed by insects along the Broadway/West Street corridor alone, which equates to approximately 60,000 hot dogs.
There is plenty zoological diversity in the unnoticed corners of the city. The study however focused on the way arthropods live and behave in the heart of a city, in both urban parks and the grassy medians. Researchers placed specific amounts of food – a tenth of a hot dog, a single potato chip and a cookie – in a container that the arthropods could reach, but not accessible to larger animals such as rodents or birds. The experiment was then repeated but this time, the food was left in the open.
The experiment revealed that arthropods consumed 32% of the discarded food in 24 hours; might not seem much, but it was more than the scientists were expecting. In the second phase of testing, an 80% of the food was consumed by the animals inside the same amount of time. The researchers were able to pick up on several preferences of the critters as well: arthropods preferred the dry food over the hot dog, and surprisingly enough, consumption rates in medians proved slightly higher than in parks. Youngsteadt, the lead scientist of the study claims it is still unclear why. One of the most efficient cleaner proved to be none other than the pavement ant.