Insect Wound Schmear

Need pain relief cream? Hold the bug spray!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Chopping veggies for dinner and … YIKES! Where’s the Neosporin?? It’s not just us — even wild animals can have accidents! And they’ve been known to self-medicate, mostly with plants. But what ELSE could they have in their first-aid kits?

Enter Alessandra Mascaro and colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany.

They study chimpanzees in the Loango National Park in Gabon. Over fifteen months, they recorded twenty-two chimps with open wounds. 

And? Chimps were seen catching insects and rubbing them on their own wounds NINETEEN separate times. They even smeared insects on each other a few times!

This is the first time scientists have seen this folk medicine behavior in animals. And just WHICH insects are the chimps using on their owies? Still unknown  – but the researchers hope that this might open up the potential for new antimicrobial or pain-relief creams! 

Who knew that slapping annoying summer bugs could cure what ails you!

Reference: Mascaro, A., Southern, L. M., Deschner, T., & Pika, S. (2022). Application of insects to wounds of self and others by chimpanzees in the wild. Current biology: CB, 32(3), R112–R113.