Zoo Vets Use a Cotton Swab to Make 'World's Tiniest Neck Brace' for a Struggling Bug

The teeny-tiny device kept the Peruvian jumping stick's "neck" from flopping around, per the zoo

<p>Jason Bazzano / Alamy</p> Stock image of a Peruvian jumping stick grasshopper

Jason Bazzano / Alamy

Stock image of a Peruvian jumping stick grasshopper

When a bug at the Houston Zoo was in a bind, a bathroom staple quickly became a life-altering device!

Earlier this year, veterinarians and zookeepers fashioned a brace from a cotton swab for one of the zoo's female Peruvian jumping sticks. A February blog post from the Texas zoo details the entire process.

According to the zoo's post, the insect, a "stick-like" grasshopper, had just gone through molting (which typically occurs when the bug is about 6 months old) and the "shedding of her exoskeleton" when a zoo employee noticed something was wrong.

An entomology keeper named Julie observed that the bug "had a crease/weakened area around a non-joint area of the 'neck,' which is actually her thoracic region but resembles the neck," per the post.

"Since these grasshoppers spend most of their time climbing and being up in tree branches, it was essential to keep her head level as the crease on her 'neck' was causing her head to flop all the way back due to its weight when she climbed upwards," according to the post.

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To prevent the bug's head from flopping and to keep her "neck in a neutral position," Julie and a team of the zoo's veterinarians began brainstorming solutions.

The winning answer? A teeny-tiny brace. Or, as the zoo phrased it on Instagram, the "world's tiniest neck brace."

"She had the brilliant idea to create a miniature neck brace that would provide temporary support for this insect while its exoskeleton hardened," the blog post said of Julie.

So, with Julie's plan for a micro-brace, Dr. Melissa, a zoo vet, found the perfect materials for the unique project.

According to the blog post, she created the brace using "the shaft of a sterile Q-tip" and attached it to the grasshopper's body using "soft microspore tape."

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The makeshift micro-brace was a success. After a few days of wearing the cotton swab contraption, it was removed, and the Peruvian jumping stick "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," per the zoo.

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