Ants are fascinating little creatures. They have incredible engineering abilities, are able to carry 8 to 10 times their body weight, and also serve an important medical purpose for those with few options. What is this medical purpose exactly? Well, it involves wound closure! Ant sutures have been around for ages and there are still areas of the world where they are used by societies and survivalists alike.

An army ant showing off it’s large mandibles. Image credit: Life Nature Library : The Insects Pg 174. (Stonehedge: NY, 1962.)

How Do They Work?

It is vital to close and bandage up a wound before infection can set in- and that is where the ants take the spotlight. Imagine that you have cut yourself badly and there are no doctors or even basic first-aid kits accessible to you. One option that you may have to close the wound is an ant’s mandibles. When the ant is grabbed from behind, they will open their mandibles wide (“The ants that…”). Simply line the sharp pincers up to both sides of the cut and let them dig in. This results in the skin being pulled together. Depending on the size of the wound, more ants can be applied as needed. Once securely placed, just snip the head from the body and leave until healed (“The ants that”…).

As you can imagine, most medical experts do not recommend this as a reliable method for wound closure due to the fact that the risk for infection is high. Sutures today come sterilized and are sold in a variety of thicknesses (Pickover 22). In fact, there are even sutures available that are thinner than a human hair! Although it isn’t ideal, the idea of using ants to close up a wound is incredibly innovative nonetheless.

Would you ever trust an ant suture?

If that doesn’t make you grateful for modern medicine then I don’t know what will!

Until Next Time

N.F.

Sources:

Pickover, Clifford. The Medical Book. Sterling Publishing, New York, 2012.

“The ants that can be used in place of stitches.” Ripley’s Believe It or Not! 27 January, 2020. Accessed 10 November, 2020. Ripley’s.com/weird-news/the-ants-that-can-be-used-in-place-of-stitches.

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