Let’s face it, humans love watching violence. What reached a pinnacle with gladiators in the coliseums, has soared to new heights with the advent of the modern day action film. We can read about all kinds of violence in the news with detached emotion, but a single story about insects living and growing within us will result in the most visceral of responses. The contestant in this battle is not a hulking gladiator, but a tiny fly and we are the target.
Meet the human botfly. It weighs in at about the same amount as a few grains of rice. At half an inch, it’s about the length of a finger nail. In fact, the adult fly won’t live long enough to eat. Doesn’t seem like much of a threat and it isn’t, the adult isn’t the problem. It’s the larva, especially when living under your skin.
Found in Central and South America, the human botfly will grab a mosquito in mid-flight and lay eggs on the underside. When the mosquito finds a host; a deer, a cow, or a human, the warmth of the skin melts the glue holding the eggs. The mosquito flies off, but the eggs remain. Quickly, they hatch and maggot-like larva finds their way to the mosquito bite and burrow inside. That’s when the monsters begin to feed.
Creepy Beyond Words
What starts out looking like a mosquito bite, will start looking more like a large, angry pimple. With one disgusting difference, in the very center of the hardened lump, you will be able to see two little breathing tubes poking out. Posterior spiracles allow the larva to breathe and remain under the skin, while its mouth continues to feed on your tissues.
Even the most obsessed CGI action junkie would scream in horror when they feel movement from within the puss weeping wound. Trying to pull them out is extremely painful. The botfly maggot’s body is covered in backward facing spines that dig in deep with any attempt of removal.
How do you get the monsters out?
Start by making it angry. Cover up the breathing tubes with Vaseline or bacon grease. Tape can work as well, but the spiracles are fragile and if the tape breaks them off you’ll be left with a dead botfly in your body. When the botfly can’t breathe, it will inch a fraction of the way out to take a breath. The moment the monster surfaces for air, a good pair of tweezers can be used grab the backside of the botfly and pull it out. Remember the spines, it is going to hurt.
If the violent and painful way of removal isn’t your thing, a doctor has an easier method. The area will be anesthetized and a small incision will be made on the lesion. After the exit hole has been enlarged, the maggot can be more easily removed. The wound will then heal after two to three weeks, with little scaring. Make sure to take plenty of antibiotics.
No matter how violent movies become, insects will always be the true gladiators of gore.
Caution: This video is not for the squeamish.