Bee nesting material creates buzz for Kiwi bioplastic startup

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In New Zealand, a biotech startup is looking at how to harness the properties of bees’ nesting material to produce a superior bioplastic film, among other applications.

Humble Bee, based in Wellington, is specifically studying Australia’s masked bee. The bee’s nesting material is similar to cellophane and boasts water-repellant properties as well as resistance to flames, high temperatures, and chemicals.

Humble Bee founder Veronica Harwood-Stevenson is working with Victoria University’s Ferrier Research Institute to study the bees. “We’re at an early stage, but we’re working on some manufacturing techniques,” she tells The Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s about biomimicry, about copying what’s in the natural environment, and we’ve been doing it in design for centuries, from plane wing design inspired by birds of prey to train shapes reflecting bird beaks.”

Humble Bee has raised $NZ160,000 ($147,000) in an initial investment round, and is aiming for $NZ500,000 in the second. Harwood-Stevenson says the company’s first target is the outdoor gear and apparel market.