The following myths might be unusual. Some of them might not even be true. (You’ll have to read to find out.) What did our ancestors do before there were stitches? Would we have fewer amputees if we’d adhered to the practices centuries ago and used maggots for wound care? Would you use maggots for wound care? Do larvae (of wasps) really produce sugary fluids that the worker wasps drink?
Together, let’s explore more about biting ants, tissue-eating maggots, and hungry end-of-season wasps.
Myth No. 1: Biting Ants Can Be Used as Sutures
This myth is true. Either insects or chemicals extracted from them have been used for thousands of years to help us with medical issues. Long before the days of stitches and Band-Aids, East African tribal people and South American indigenous people were known to have used the mandibles, or jawbones, of certain types of ants to suture wounds.
Though I wouldn’t recommend trying this at home, and who knows how sanitary these little beasts are, here are the steps if you run into a pickle in the middle of the Amazon jungle and want to give it a try.
First, find an ant with huge wide-open-spread mandibles, such as the driver ant, army ant, or bullet ant. Grasp the ant behind the head, by the thorax. (It’s preferable to use something other than your fingers to do so.) Be mindful that the bullet ant delivers an extremely painful sting that can feel like getting shot (hence the name). The ant, grasped and performing its normal defensive behavior, will open wide and wait to attack whomever (or whatever) is aggravating it. At this point, place the mandibles of the ant near the skin, on each side of the cut. The ant, performing its "attack" duty, will clamp down and hold the wound closed. Next, lift up the thorax and pinch off the body, leaving just the head and mandibles. The ant head will remain locked in that position. Repeat as necessary. Remove ant heads when the wound is healed.
Myth No. 2: Maggots Heal Wounds
When you have a wound, either of two things happen: It scabs over and the tissue heals or it doesn’t scab over and the tissue starts to die. When the latter happens and there isn’t enough blood flow to the area, the wound begins to look nasty. (I’ll spare you the details.) Bacteria begins to grow and spread and you become septic as your body fights a severe, life-threatening infection.
Let’s back this story up a tad. Let’s say that the latter happens and your doctor applies a gauze pad full of medical-grade, sterile maggots, to the wound. You feel like you’re going to get sick, but you’re actually okay as you watch these greedy little hungry fly larvae get to work, feasting on your dead tissue. Their lunch is your healing.
Want to know more? (I’ll write the rest in third person. You don’t need to relate to this part.) These immature, baby flies crawl around the wound, looking for the most rotten parts. As they crawl, their rough little spines rake the tissue. This raking loosens the dead tissue from the living tissue. It’s a beautiful (and very precise and gentle) thing—using nature instead of a scalpel to remove this dead tissue.
The larvae feast, but because they’re babies, their feasting is limited to liquids. Therefore, they actually secrete their digestive enzymes onto the wound. These enzymes liquefy the tissue, turning it into their next meal. What’s wild is that these enzymes only impact the dead tissue, not the living tissue. In the process, the larvae also eat up all the bacteria, which their stomachs can not only handle, but which can also kill. They can also cause this bacteria, in the wound, to die.
Bonus: Maggot therapy is now FDA approved. Published studies have shown that 50-70% of amputations could probably have been prevented with Maggot Therapy.
So, this myth is true. Not only can maggots heal wounds, but they can help prevent amputations (and worse).
Myth No. 3: Wasps Get Drunk
Worker wasps are food-gathering wasps. They cannot procreate and only exist to help feed the queen wasp and larvae. Towards the end of the summer, the queen wasps stop producing larvae. These larvae, strange enough, were the ones feeding the worker wasps.
How it works: The worker wasps gather food, such as caterpillars and aphids and other soft-bodied invertebrates. They then chew it up to feed the larvae. The larvae, in turn, produce a sugary fluid that the (worker) wasps drink. Adult wasps, because of their literal trim figures (they have very small waists), can’t digest food and need liquid to survive. So when the queen quits producing larvae, the wasps have to find another means to get their dietary means met. They begin foraging for anything sweet - rotting apples, decomposing pears, sugary soda, leftover beer…and if it’s beer that they find, it is beer that they drink.
This myth is true. Wasps can get drunk and can’t handle their booze. One tiny slurp of alcohol and the buzzing bee in your ear is drunk, irritable, aggressive, and prone to causing trouble. They fight among themselves, pick on humans, and then…that’s it. They die. Wasps live only 12-22 days and once their task of feeding the larvae is complete, they perish.
Final Word on Ants, Maggots, and Wasps
Even though ants can be used as sutures and maggots can heal wounds, I wouldn’t recommend starting either a biting ant farm or a maggot lab. Nor would I recommend leaving out an alcoholic beverage just to see for yourself if wasps really do get drunk and begin to fly sideways.
Rather, I’d continue to be a fan of Dr. Killigan’s (which you can follow on Facebook and Instagram), and keep these biting, crawling, and flying pests at bay, out of my home and away from my family, my pets, and my yard.
For ants, disperse a thin line of diatomaceous earth around the perimeter of your home using Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster. This will keep them out of your peaceful abode. If you’re already seeing them marching two by two up a wall, you can immediately rid their slow takeover of your home by spraying them with Dr. Killigan’s Six Feet Under, a non-toxic kill-on-contact spray.
For maggots, prevention is key. Keep a tidy home and use Dr. Killigan’s Leather Fly Swatter, truly the last fly swatter you will ever need, at will - before these flying miscreants are given the chance to do further damage. As we’re on the onset of summer and more than one of these winged invaders is sure to make its way into your home, I’d go a step further and purchase our Fly Inn, a captivating, stylish trap for these dirty, disease-spreading flies.
For wasps, it’s important to note that wasps sting and that although a nest starts out very small, it can soon become the size of a basketball or even larger. Fill Dr. Killigan’s Insect Buster with diatomaceous earth and rid your yard of this nest before you get stung.
For more information about our all-natural, non-toxic pest control solutions, visit our shop.
This is so fascinating! I would never have guess that maggots can be beneficial for cleaning wounds and am shocked that they can prevent amputations! That is amazing.