So I am sitting in urgent care because a friend was in a car crash this morning (she’s fine, just banged up). With all this time to sit and think (and play a few hours of candy crush), it gets the buzzing going in my head. Insects get hurt too, what do they do about it?
Turns out, like humans getting in a car wreck, it depends on the severity. If they just get a
little banged and bruised, they shake their little antennae out and carry on. But what about broken bones? Since insects have an exoskeleton, this can be a bit trickier than setting a broken arm. Insects (and other arthropods) do have the ability to heal the wounds in their outer skeleton. Adult insects are done with the “growing” phase of their life so they can essentially clot the area like throwing a bandaid on. Immature insects can still molt, so for most cases, the new exoskeleton will be mostly to completely repaired. Just like in humans, getting injured takes time and energy to heal, so this leaves them more susceptible to predation.
Insects and spiders also have the superpower of regeneration (it’s a miracle!). The way insect legs are structured, they have sections around the joints that once broken off, the small amount of muscle in that area degrades and regeneration starts. Some spiders can purposely detach limbs and they will pulse and move. This distraction screams “EAT ME” from the detached limb while the spider runs off in another direction saying “phew!”. But it isn’t just legs, insects have been shown to regenerate eyes and antennae. Again, this is for immature stages that are still capable of molting. Adults… well, they’re out of luck, sometimes Humpty Dumpty can’t be put back together again.
On a related note, insects have been used to treat injuries in people. Maggot therapy has
been used to clean out dead and decaying tissue while leaving healthy tissue to heal. Army ants were used as living sutures to close wounds like stitches. Honey bee venom (though poorly studied) has been attributed to helping with numerous diseases like arthritis to multiple sclerosis. Many arthropods, especially those with venom, have been studied for potential medical benefits.
Time to bug out of here, looks like my friend is done. I need to make a bee-line to get her home and snug as a bug in a rug, but before I buzz off, wouldn’t you like to share or like this entomologically awesome post?