The Use of Insects in Medicine

Ant: Mandibles close up
Ant: Mandibles close up | Source

How To Use Ants As Sutures

As far back as recorded human history ants have been used as sutures to hold wounds of all type together to heal. During the early Egyptian and Greek civilizations it became widely known that large ants had very tight grips in their mandibles. Which are the large horn shaped extensions from their mouths. When the ant would bite it could close it's mandibles like a vise on whatever was in it's mouth. These early civilizations began to use these ants to help close wounds and promote healing.

This process is still used today primarily in undeveloped and third world countries. It is a no cost way to treat wounded. Instructions on how to use ants as sutures are below.

  1. MaKe sure the wound is cleaned as well as possible.
  2. Tightly push both sides of the hemorrhage together.
  3. Take an ant by the body and place its head in line with the wound.
  4. After the ant bites down and it's mandibles pinch the sides of the wound together twist off it's body leaving the head holding together the wound.
  5. Repeat along the line of the wound using further ants one at a time until the wound is sealed.

Leech Sucking Blood
Leech Sucking Blood | Source

Cases Where Leeches Are The Most Successful

  • Microsurgery, leeches release an anti-coagulant to counteract the clotting of blood.
  • During reattachment of limbs, organs, eyelids, fingers and ears
  • Treatments to assist those with poor circulation.

Using Leeches To Keep Blood Flowing

As with ants, leeches have been used throughout history the primary use is to keep blood flowing and keep certain parts of the body healthy and alive. In extreme cases this is due to accidents that make blood flow difficult.

During many surgeries the coagulation of blood can mean the difference between life and death. Leeches keep the anti-coagulation process natural which means no drugs with possible side effects need to be used to accomplish the same task. In the case of many of these treatments and operations the over all effectiveness is dramatically increased. Situations that once could have possible ended in permanent disfigurement now allow many to continue on with their lives after a period of healing.

Maggots Cleaning A Wound
Maggots Cleaning A Wound | Source

Cleaning Wounds With Maggots

Maggots were initially used in the far past by aboriginal peoples in the Americas and Australia. But for the rest of the world it was only through periods of war and possibly very unsanitary conditions that the true nature of what maggots could do was discovered. It wasn't until during the US civil war, World War I and World War II that maggots were used intentionally to heal people.

The healing properties of maggots are very specific. In many cases burns, infections and other issues cause large amounts of dead flesh and this creates a serious problem for the body to regenerate. The living flesh beneath can suffer worse infection from the dead flesh. It is also a complication for medical professions to strip away the dead flesh without damaging the living flesh. This is when maggots are used. Maggots will eat only dead flesh and leave all living flesh intact. Once they have consumed all of the dead flesh they are removed and the healing continues.

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Comments 20 comments

rebeccamealey profile image

rebeccamealey 4 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

Interesting stuff here! Thanks for an enlightening look at yucky things that we really don't want to even talk about. Just goes to show...a purpose for everything. I vote up, useful and shared!


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

rebeccamealey - yep, I thought this bugs as medicine hub would catch some peoples interest. Thanks for reading :)


jennzie profile image

jennzie 4 years ago from Lower Bucks County, PA

Very interesting hub! I'm not a big fan of the creepy crawly type, but I also didn't realize how useful they could be as well. Voted up!


jellygator profile image

jellygator 4 years ago from USA

I find this topic fascinating, even if it is one of those things we don't usually want to think about. It makes me wonder whether ants are the reason someone developed the idea of stitches, for instance.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

jennzie - it is pretty interesting how they can use insects to heal people in different ways. thanks for reading, commenting and the vote up :)


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

jellygator - I suppose we won't know but it is interesting to think about using ants as stitches is unusual but it is easy for sure :)


Msmillar profile image

Msmillar 4 years ago from Valley Springs

WOW! That was so interesting and creepy at the same time!! Thanks, I can't wait to tell my kids!


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Msmillar - yes using bugs to heal people is weird but if it works that is great!


Kris Heeter profile image

Kris Heeter 4 years ago from Indiana

Great hub - this geeky scientist is loving it! Although I'd have to really suck it up to turn to these little guys for medical help:)


Teylina profile image

Teylina 4 years ago

Fantastic info! A keeper!


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Kris Heeter - I know what you mean, the thought of putting maggots in a wound is quite revolting and I can only imagine how it would feel but they do heal people and that's a good thing :)


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Teylina - tis pretty interesting!


blairtracy profile image

blairtracy 4 years ago from Canada

In nursing school we learned about maggot therapy. I know this type of treatment is very successful. However, I am not sure I could ever participate in it. Haha, I have a fear of the little guys. Interesting hub!


Lipnancy profile image

Lipnancy 4 years ago from Hamburg, New York

Great hub. Just keep the critty crawlers away from me.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

blairtracy yep maggots crawling on your body, pretty gross but it works!


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Lipnancy - hehe I understand :)


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

I have been hearing about leeches and maggots returning to favor in the medical world but it is just so hard to think of now. We don't associate insects with healing but you've outlined the proof.

Voted up and interesting.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

tillsontitan - everything works together in one way or another I suppose. Thanks for reading :)


Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

Gypsy Rose Lee 4 years ago from Riga, Latvia

Voted up and interesting. This was fascinating and informative. I knew about leeches but not about the other insects. Thanks for sharing. Passing this on.


terrektwo profile image

terrektwo 4 years ago from North America Author

Gypsy Rose Lee - did my best to put the bugs I could in it. Bugs in medicine is a little unusual but it is something interesting to write about :)

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