Worried about the roles insects and rats and other city animals play in dealing with city garbage, researchers from North Carolina State University have established that city faunas play a bigger role in keeping the environment clean than people ordinarily imagine it to be.

In a research published in Global Change Biology, the scientists discovered that bugs, cockroaches, ants, and rats should be thanked for helping to consume large garbage and refuse wastes that could have posed environmental challenge and health risks to people living in cities. They found that these faunas have been helping to keep New York clean by dealing with the garbage disposal system – without charging any costs for their humane services except for feeding on them.

The university researchers discovered that insects at Broadway/West Street axis of New York consume as much as 60,000 hot dogs annually, which happens to be the equivalent of 2,100 pounds or 950 kilograms of food waste at any given year.

To better understand how they do it, the researchers placed measured amounts of hot dogs, potato chips, and cookies at 21 parks and 24 street medians – and at returning after 24 hours to see how much the bugs had done, Dr. Elsa Youngsteadt says “The ants and arthropods in medians ate two to three times more food than the ones in parks, which was surprising to us because parks do have a higher diversity of ants and other animals.”

Street bugs were discovered to have consumed more discarded foods, in fact up to three times more, than bugs resident in parks. This means that the location of faunas as regards garbage consumption plays a bigger role than their biodiversity. And once again, Dr. Youngsteadt reveals that “This isn’t just a silly fact. This highlights a very real service that these arthropods provide. They effectively dispose of our trash for us.”

Ants, according to the researchers, appear to consume more discarded foods and garbage than rats, and seem to edge out rats from feeding by starving them of food in an ingenious way that tends to keep rat populations on the low side. This means that ants being the biggest eaters help to reduce rat populations by the simple act of feeding on garbage to keep the city (New York) clean and livable.

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