Because of rising laboratory costs and because they are relatively easy to maintain, insects are bred for many different fields of research. Since they have short life spans, the time to complete experiments is reduced. Being that insects have complex nervous, reproductive, respiratory and digestive systems, breeding insects for research has become commonplace.
Raising bugs can be done in large numbers at a fraction of the cost of rats, mice, monkeys or other lab animals. They mature quickly, produce rapidly – having many offspring and don’t take up much space. Breeding bugs instead of mammals for research is much more acceptable to animal rights groups.
The most widely bred insects for research purposes are flies. In fact, the fruit fly is well known for its contribution to the study of genetics and genetic diseases. Since human bacteria and viruses multiply in various bugs, scientists have been able to diagnose and treat many diseases. Because of breeding insects and using them in their research, many new drugs have been developed. Mosquitoes, for example, have been especially helpful because they can be screened with potential drugs to treat malaria. Fireflies have helped detect bacteria in milk, wine and water. Gypsy moths have provided valuable information about hormones.
Maggots (fly larvae) kill bacteria and eat dead tissue. They have been used for centuries, especially during times of war. Today, some hospitals purchase them from insect breeders to help keep wounds clean. Doctors say that maggots do a better job of helping a wound heal than any medicine.
Leeches are also bred for medicinal use. They are used in reconstructive and plastic surgery because they help stop blood clots, promote blood flow and remove stagnant blood from the body.
Breeding bugs for research purposes is a practice that continues to grow. Cancer and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) are two deadly diseases that could possibly be cured one day due to the breeding of bugs for research purposes.