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A Tiny Vet Tale – Exceptional Vet Care for Even the Smallest Residents

Up-close view of the neck brace.

If you’ve visited the Bug House before, you may have spotted our Peruvian jumping sticks, which are actually stick-like grasshoppers. 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.

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 its weight when she climbed upwards.

Julie worked closely with the Zoo’s veterinary team to determine a solution to help keep this invertebrate’s neck in a neutral position. She had the brilliant idea to create a miniature neck brace that would provide temporary support for this insect while its exoskeleton hardened. On the vet side, Dr. Melissa helped make a miniature, flexible neck brace using the shaft of a sterile Q-tip and some soft microspore tape to secure it to the insect’s body.

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.

Post-neck brace

Whether it’s a mammal, reptile, bird, or even insect, all of our animals receive extraordinary care from our veterinary team, no matter how big or small it may be. Together, with the help of our entomology and veterinary team, one of our smallest critters received exceptional treatment thanks to the ingenious design of a temporary neck brace.

After having the neck brace removed, the Peruvian jumping stick was able to support her head and lived out the rest of her days in normalcy with her critter companions.

Be sure to stop by the Bug House to spot our Peruvian jumping sticks in person.