Recently I was listening to a podcast featuring Justin Wren. He is a former UFC fighter who gave up everything to live with the Pygmies in the Congo and help them build wells so they have fresh water. On this podcast they were talking about a few things that are much different in the Congo than they are here in the United States. One of those things that really grabbed my attention is the use of army ants being used for sutures to stitch wounds, since they don’t have things like band aids and first aid kits readily available. I decided to do a little bit of research on this because I found it insanely interesting. Here is what I found.
This particular breed of ants is called the Dorylus. They are also known as driver ants, safari ants, or siafu. They’re basically large army ants which are typically found in central and eastern Africa, but sometimes can be found in Asia.
Because of their strong jaws, they are used as emergency sutures, when nothing else is available. Often times, the smaller villages found in the Congo and around Africa will use them since band aids aren’t necessarily available.
They’ll hold the ant by the back part of their body, line up their jaws with the wound, then the army ant will bite using its jaws. Once the jaw has ‘sutured’ both sides of the wound, they’ll break off the body of the ant, leaving only the head and the jaws. This creates a natural suture which can be used in the wild if no other supplies are available.
The suture itself can actually hold for days if needed, and can be repeated if necessary to help with the healing.
Army ants can be found in abundance at times. When their food supply runs low, they often will leave the hill they’re on and form columns that can contain up to 50,000,000 ants. These can cause disruption to some residents, especially those who are unable to move or when the columns go through their homes. They travel around the speed of 65 feet per hour.
Check out the video below showing these army ants at work.
It’s amazing how people can really adapt to their surroundings when needed. The quote “Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention” comes to mind when I think of using army ants for sutures. It’s impressive that the villagers of Africa have found this small insect, that would be a nuisance in most cases, and turned it into something completely helpful and useful. I might start giving ants a little more thought from now on when I see them in the garden or around the yard.