Weird Wednesdays: Botflies are disgusting, NGL

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The egg, which is that of the human botfly, aka Dermatobia hominis, (relatives of which have been known to infect dogs, horses, mice, squirrels and cattle) will happily hatch and then ooze into the open wound, taking up residence in the 98.6 degree Fahrenheit residence it has carved out for itself. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

The egg, which is that of the human botfly, aka Dermatobia hominis, (relatives of which have been known to infect dogs, horses, mice, squirrels and cattle) will happily hatch and then ooze into the open wound, taking up residence in the 98.6 degree Fahrenheit residence it has carved out for itself. (Public Domain/Wikimedia Commons)

Disclaimer: Today’s column is pretty freaking gross. If you do not like graphic descriptions of insects growing inside your body, please do not read any further. Instead, here is a YouTube link to some adorable kittens.

Freaking bugs, man. Why have I been spending all of my time writing about horrific creatures from the bottom of the ocean when I could have been writing about the beasties lurking in your backyard this whole time?

Giant hornets aside, I’ve touched very little on the fascinating world of insects, despite the fact they outnumber us by about 200 to one. While most insect species, like beetles, butterflies, bees and ants, co-exist with humans peacefully, or even help us out by acting as decomposers and pollinators, others, like hornets, bedbugs and horseflies are straight-up pests, spreading disease and just plain, well, bugging us by invading our personal property and space.

Some take the whole “invading your space” thing a wee bit far.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a happy little female mosquito in Central/South America. You spend your short-lived mosquito life screwing other mosquitoes, laying eggs in stagnant pools of water and drinking blood from mammals so you can keep doing that. At some point in your epic and disgusting journey you run into a weird, bee-like creature that leaves behind an egg or two on your little mosquito body.

Somehow, you’re fine with this. You’re also fine when you go to bite some hapless human and said egg happens to be deposited into the wound created by your bloodsucking, after which you bugger off to find a male mosquito to mate with.

The egg, which is that of the human botfly, aka Dermatobia hominis, (relatives of which have been known to infect dogs, horses, mice, squirrels and cattle) will happily hatch and then ooze into the open wound, taking up residence in the 98.6 degree Fahrenheit residence it has carved out for itself. It can burrow up to six inches deep into the muscle, where it feeds off the blood supply and nutrients a cozy human body provides.

It’s not going anywhere anytime soon, as it grows, over five to ten weeks, up to three centimeters in length. It also has several barbs that anchor it inside the host, making removal painful. It also maintains a constantly-open hole in the host’s skin in order for the larva to breathe.

The host, for their part, will notice irritation, swelling, itching and oozing from the new hole in its flesh. After ten weeks, the fly emerges and the torment ends, as it oozes from the wound in the night and pupates into a full-fledged botfly.

I warned you it would be gross.

Humans visiting or living in South and Central America are advised, as such, to wear bug repellant, sleep with a net and wear protective clothing. In the unfortunate case that you’ve been infected, short of setting yourself on fire in sheer horror of the disgusting grub living inside your body, one can apply camphor-based ointment and duct tape to the air-hole in order to suffocate the larva, and then expel the deflated grub after death. Otherwise, it can be surgically removed by a doctor.

The lesson here? I have none. The world is a vast, cruel and disgusting place. Have faith in nothing, dear readers, for the worms shall begin to devour before you even die.

Stay botfly-free. Stay weird.


Marlese Lessing is the news editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu. She tweets @marlese_lessing.

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