Heartwarming: Tiny neck brace invented to save an injured grasshopper

HOUSTON — What do you do when a grasshopper has a neck problem? It’s simple — you put a neck brace on them! That’s what a team at the Houston Zoo did for a tiny stick bug suffering from a life-threatening floppy neck.

Keepers at Houston Zoo stepped in to rescue the Peruvian jumping stick — which is basically a species of stick-like grasshoppers — after one of the workers noticed a problem during the insect’s molting season.

“Recently, one of our female Peruvian jumping sticks went through molting (typically this happens around 6 months old) and shedding of her exoskeleton. However, after the post-molt process, Julie, one of our entomology keepers noticed that she had a crease/weakened area around a non-joint area of the ‘neck,’ which is actually her thoracic region but resembles the neck,” officials at the Houston Zoo wrote in a media release.

Since this species of grasshopper spends most of their time climbing up tree branches, the zoo explains that it was vital to keep her head level. Due to the crease in the stick bug’s neck, her head could easily flop backwards under its own weight while climbing.

In a brilliant improvisation that you might see on “MacGyver,” Julie worked with the Houston Zoo’s veterinary team to invent a miniature neck brace that held the grasshopper’s head in place until its exoskeleton hardened again. To do this, Julie and Dr. Melissa (one of the zoo’s veterinarians) used the shaft of a clean Q-tip and some soft microspore tape to keep the Peruvian jumping stick’s neck stable — essentially making an extremely tiny splint.

“A few days later, our female Peruvian jumping stick’s neck brace was removed and she was able to support her own head. She had a small visible mark where the original crease happened but was able to climb and move about like normal in her exhibit,” the Houston Zoo happily reports.

The Peruvian jumping stick after neck brace removed.
The Peruvian jumping stick after neck brace removed. (Credit: SWNS)

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South West News Service writer Dean Murray contributed to this report.