10 Insects We Love to Study

Insect larvae from green bottle flies are suspended in water before being applied to wounds in maggot therapy. © Louise Murray/Visuals Unlimited/Corbis

For centuries, people used maggots for medicinal purposes. The bugs helped to clean injuries and prevent infection. The unsightly critters were good at what they did because they fed only on dead tissue. When antibiotics came along, maggots were relegated to the dustbin of history. Now, however, maggot use in modern medicine is on the rise. In fact, the U.S. Federal Drug Administration approved their use as a "medical device" back in 2004. One study published in 2013 concluded that maggots do a better job of clearing out dead tissue after surgery than a doctor could with a scalpel and scissors. Another studied showed that maggot secretions battle some pathogens, which can help stop infections [source: Arnold].

Moreover, forensic entomologists have a soft spot for maggots and adult flies. Since flies are the first bugs to arrive when a body starts to decompose, figuring out which species settles on a body and lays its eggs is important. Different types of flies appear at different times and grow at different rates. Among the first to show up on a body are blowflies and flesh flies. The longer a body decomposes, the more flies appear [source: Lee].