Our friends, the invertebrates

If you’ve got a reasonably robust gut, you might be able to handle following this link to a movie showing the intimate relationship between a man and his botfly larvae.

If you can’t appreciate the beauty of large maggots, well, no, you might not want to click. Really. I am not to blame if you disregard my recommendation.


  1. #1 Robster, FCD
    August 13, 2007

    The trick is, kill the larva, then extract it. Heated lance would likely do the job, tweezers, no more botfly.

  2. #2 Stanton
    August 13, 2007

    Robster, from what I’ve heard, killing the larva makes extraction so much harder because, once it’s dead, the corpse is more likely to break apart when tweezered.

  3. #3 bacopa
    August 13, 2007

    I think its a bad idea to kill the botfly before removing it. Any damage may cause the larva to break as it is extracted. The last thing you want is rotting larva fragments in that hole. I’m not an MD or anything, but I have had two kittens with botflies and the vet both times stressed that the “wormhole” (LOL) would be quite clean if the larva were removed in one piece. The squirrel botfly commonly infests feral kittens in the US. One of my last batches of semiferals had one.

    Hey anyone in H-town need a cat? The rescue group I work with is overwhelmed and I still have two fistey 10 week olds and a super-sweet mama cat (just got her spayed).

  4. #4 Steve_C
    August 13, 2007

    So not going there.

    I want to keep my lunch down.

  5. #5 John C. Randolph
    August 13, 2007

    Yet another in a long lists of proofs that there is no god.


  6. #6 Mrs Tilton
    August 13, 2007

    John @5: all a matter of perspective, surely. No doubt botfly larvae tell themselves, “Ah, delicious human back-flesh! Surely the gift of a loving God!”

    It is the tweezers that will test their faith, I suppose.

  7. #7 Dustin
    August 13, 2007

    Ahh, rare footage of the secret origins of Ken Salazar.

  8. #8 Anastasia L
    August 13, 2007

    The link shown at the end of the video takes you to an even better story… guy got infested someplace a little more sensitive than on his back.

    Hurk. Glad I finished lunch already.

  9. #9 Brownian
    August 13, 2007

    LOL @#6.

    For a secular perspective, you must read Dr. Elisabeth Kbler-Moth’s excellent book, On Tweezers and Tweezing.

  10. #10 bug_girl
    August 13, 2007

    W00t! I beat PZ at something!
    (complete with even *more* disgusting photos and videos!)

  11. #11 thalarctos
    August 13, 2007

    Hurk. Glad I finished lunch already.

    What’s really pathetic is when you get to the point where it doesn’t bother you to watch things like that when you are eating.

    Shark anatomy lab is what did it for me.

  12. #12 Inky
    August 13, 2007

    Gaaaahhh! GaaAAAAAHHH!!!!

    … Oh, man, I’m sooo hungry.

  13. #13 DHoyt
    August 13, 2007

    The easy way to remove bot fly larvae is to slap a piece of steak over the hole. The larvae need air and will tunnel into the meat. Leave it on for an hour or so, pull off the steak with the larvae, and you’re done. Repeat, if necessary.

  14. #14 Chakolate
    August 13, 2007

    Wow – that was seriously cool. Except I wanted to see all the other removals, too. And I wanted to see what happened to the removed botflies.

    Too, too cool.

  15. #15 Mena
    August 13, 2007

    Don’t judge all invertebrates by the actions of a few! ;^)

  16. #16 Carlie
    August 13, 2007

    Bug Girl, what freaked me out the most was seeing a link to Cute Overload RIGHT NEXT TO the video of the botfly removal. [shudder]

  17. #17 bug_girl
    August 13, 2007

    Sweet serendipity, that 😀

  18. #18 Stanton
    August 13, 2007

    BTW, these bot-flies pale in comparison to other flies, such as the Sheep’s Nostril fly, Oestrus ovis, whose larvae lair in the nostrils of sheep…

  19. #19 cyan
    August 13, 2007

    As interesting as the botfly movie is (& there are some more on Youtube), and even all these other cute little parasites are (again, Youtube has really interesting parasitic nematode movies), there is nothing more nightmare-ish than this isopod:

    imagine having this thing living in your throat.

  20. #20 Stanton
    August 13, 2007

    Beats having a frog in your throat, cyan.

  21. #21 TonyL
    August 13, 2007

    I had one of these in my leg while living in the boonies on the Atlantic coast of Costa Rica. Didn’t hurt much, except for an occasional twinge when it screwed itself further into my flesh (the locals called them “torcelos”). Went to a doctor, who squeezed it out: now that hurt! The locals said: “What are you, a cow??!!” That hurt too…

  22. #22 Robster, FCD
    August 13, 2007

    I was under the understanding that kill (without squishing) and remove worked just as well, but have been wrong before. Leaving hooks or other parts behind is probably a risk with anything other than letting the fly mature and go its merry way.

    I have emailed my brother (MD in Kenya, lots of parasite training/ experience) and asked him what would be appropriate, and if any of the above suggestions would work.

  23. #23 S. Fisher
    August 13, 2007

    Having spent some time in Belize I have come to know the botfly well. What always amazed me was that a fly as large as the botfly (as large as its’ larvae) could catch and lay eggs on a creature as small as a mosquito. Parasite reproductive strategies are so highly evolved it strains the imagination. Zimmers’ Parasite Rex is a must read for those who find such things fascinating.

  24. #24 Stanton
    August 13, 2007

    Rob, ultimately, if the bot maggot is allowed to develop into adulthood, the hole heals up by itself, leaving nothing but a slight scar.
    It’s very difficult, if not impossible to lance them without squishing them. I would think that, since maggots are mostly moisture, that lancing them with a heated needle would pop them, in fact.
    The best way to remove them is to plug the hole with some vaseline, so that the maggot begins to suffocate. In a few hours, it will move closer to the entrance of the hole, and in its weakened state, it will be (somewhat) easier to pull out. From what I’ve seen, that’s the preferred method of dealing with the bastards.

  25. #25 Kseniya
    August 13, 2007

    *giggle* @ Brownian (#9)

  26. #26 thalarctos
    August 14, 2007

    I thought I had a tapeworm once, but it was just a fluke.

  27. #27 Stanton
    August 14, 2007

    You just had to worm that one in, didn’t you?
    People like you really bug me.

  28. #28 Kseniya
    August 14, 2007

    Question: Let’s say I were to, um, acquire a botfly maggot, which drilled its way into my back, subsequently reached maturity, and then flew off to live its happy little life independent of me, could I still claim to be a nullipara?

  29. #29 Stanton
    August 14, 2007

    Yes, given as how it was someone else’s egg, of a different phylum, and, hopefully, did not come out of your baby-making regions.

  30. #30 Kseniya
    August 14, 2007

    Whew! Ok. I can check that concern of the list, then.


  31. #31 bernarda
    August 14, 2007
  32. #32 Tycho the Dog
    August 14, 2007

    This looks like an neat and pain-free technique for extracting the little critters.

  33. #33 Mrs Tilton
    August 14, 2007

    I’ve posted this link here before (at PZ’s old site), but clearly some of us need reminding that there are vertebrates who make the botfly seem a kitten by comparison. Consider, my friends, the candir, a small slim member of the catfish order. It normally lodges in the gills of larger fish, where it extends its sharp spines and settles in for a meal of blood. Sometimes, though, they lodge themselves in other tight spaces. The linked page shows some photos of a specimen being removed from… well, let’s just say that a woman wouldn’t have needed it removed from there (but might from elsewhere).

  34. #34 Drhoz!
    August 14, 2007

    Yay, botflies! My favorite parasite of primates. Such a *wonderfully* adapted animal 🙂

  35. #35 Jeebus
    August 14, 2007

    And what would physicist Richard Feynman think of this atrocious activity? Well, let’s just check the back of Mr. Bot-dude’s shirt…

    “Physics is like sex: sure, it may give some practical results, but that’s not why we do it.”

    Quite appropriate, IMO.

  36. #36 Robster, FCD
    August 15, 2007

    Finally got message back from my brother in Kenya, and I was quite wrong. I still think using meat as a treatment is a waste of a nice meal…

    “What we see in Africa is different than the common variety seen in the Americas. Our larva escapes the host at just over a week and can often be removed with just squeezing and patience although petroleum jelly or meat or bacon are all used. Surgical incisions are only occasionally necessary.

    New world myaisis may go through several instar stages and last 3 weeks. Excision may be needed but with care; it is possible to not get all the critter. The best way to kill any of the botflys or tumbu may be with an occlusive dressing for say, a day or 2 or 3 and then excision. A heated lance would increase the chance of having more tissue reaction or damage as well as leaving foreign bodies.

    Reference: Manson’s Tropical Diseases- THE tome on this subject”



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