Can insects heal wounds? Chimpanzees treat wounds with insects

Chimpanzees are possibly even more resourceful than we thought. Research has shown, for example, that the animals play ‘doctor’ when one of their congeners has a wound. To make the wound heal faster, they apply crushed insects. Researchers write this in the journal Current Biology

Evolutionary biologist Allesandra Mascaro (Max Planck Institute) was the first to notice: chimpanzee mother Suzee caught an insect, crushed it with her lips, and then rubbed it on a wound on her son Sia. A week later, a doctoral student noticed the same behavior in another monkey. That got the researchers thinking.

They began observing the 45 chimpanzees in Loango National Park in West Africa, Gabonese, focusing mainly on injured monkeys. They did that for two years. Until the biologists had registered a total of 22 similar cases in which the chimpanzees used flies to treat the wounds of their conspecifics or their own. In 19 cases, this involved personal care. Three monkeys rubbed the wound of a fellow species.

Since the researchers do not know which insects the chimpanzees use, it is still unclear whether the trick really works.


In any case, chimpanzees are not the first animals to self-medicate. For example, cats and dogs eat grass so they can vomit. And other great apes also eat leaves from plants that are not on the ‘menu’ during the week when they are battling parasites. Yet the chimpanzees are rather unique because they take care of not only themselves but also other species. To get the latest stories, install our app here

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