Stories tagged bot fly

May
03
2008

A harmless bot fly: kind of cute, really.
A harmless bot fly: kind of cute, really.Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
Have you thrown up yet today?

Oh, you haven’t? That’s fine if you haven’t. Not even an issue, really.

Forget that. Let’s go and learn about science!

Have y’all heard of the bot fly? They’re a little gray fly, native to the Americas, and they’ve got the most fascinating life-cycle.

Just a second—it feels like there’s a tiny person with diarrhea camping out in my stomach. Sorry, that was totally unrelated.

Anyway, the bot fly has a remarkable life cycle, especially the bot fly species dermatobia hominis. Pupating in the soil, the adult d. hominis emerges after about a week, and sets out looking for a mate and a mosquito. Once the bot fly finds and catches a mosquito, surprisingly, it doesn’t hurt the captured insect at all. The fly just attaches its own eggs to the mosquito’s body.

Now, I know what you’re thinking—you’re thinking that this is going to be one of those bugs that lays its eggs in another insect and leaves it alive so that when the eggs hatch the new larva can eat the living host. Get that thought out of your head right now; it’s simply not the case.

Oh, man, I feel like I’m salivating a lot. And burping.

Anyway, now we have this mosquito giving bot fly eggs a friendly lift. The mosquito goes about its life, looking for a blood meal. When the mosquito finds a mammal to drink from (usually a monkey or a person in the case of d. hominis), the eggs hatch, and the itty-bitty bot fly larva drop off the mosquito on to its host. The larvas then crawl into the tiny hole conveniently provided by the mosquito, and make a little home for themselves. For the next eight weeks, they feed off the tissue under the skin of their host until they grow into a large grub, about three quarters of an inch long, ringed with strong, hooked barbs, which make extracting the larva quite difficult and painful. Once the eight weeks are up, they chew their way out of the skin, and drop to the ground, where they burrow into the dirt. And about a week later…an adult fly is born once again! Isn’t nature a miracle?

Wait! Don’t leave yet! I have something else for you: a video I like to call The miracle of (bot fly) birth. I can’t make you watch it, but you probably should.

Now I think I have to go lie down and take some deep breaths