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What is a Bot Fly?

By Nychole Price
Updated Mar 05, 2024
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Bot flies are also known as torsalo, or American warble flies. A bot fly is in the genus Dermatobia and is of the species D. hominis. It is the only species in the genus Dermatobia that attacks humans. Bot flies transfer their eggs to humans by way of the mosquito. The female bot fly captures the mosquito and secures her eggs to the mosquito's body.

When the mosquito bites a human and begins to feed, the bot fly larvae enter the person's skin through the bite. The larvae grow underneath the skin of the person. This process takes about eight weeks, during which that time a large, writhing bump develops on the person's skin. Bot flies are very difficult to remove, as the larvae has hooked spines that wrap the midsection. If a person attempts to kill the bot fly larvae, without fully removing it, the area will become infected.

There are several ways you can attempt to remove a bot fly without leaving any part of it behind. While there are no guarantees that the different methods will work with every person, they are worth a try. Never attempt to just pull out the larvae, as there is a risk of infection. These methods involve suffocating the maggot in various ways.

Saturate a cotton ball with camphor oil. Apply the cotton ball to the bite mark where the larvae entered and tape it down firmly. Leave it there for approximately eight hours to force the larvae to come up for air. When you remove the cotton ball, the bot fly larvae should be lying underneath.

Another method of removing bot flies involve taking a hot bath. Fill a tub with hot water and Epsom salt. Fully submerse yourself in the hot water and remain there for 45 minutes. The salt and water will drown the larvae when it comes to the surface of the skin to breathe.

Pine tar is known to be effective in removing bot flies, due to the sticky nature of the substance. Rub pine tar on the bite and bandage it snugly. Allow it to remain there for two to three days. Remove the bandage and you should have bot fly maggots sticking to it.

Superglue is another popular method used to remove bot fly larvae. Apply super glue to the bite mark entrance and allow it dry for a day. Slowly pull up the dried glue and the maggots should be stuck to it.

Although the thought of bot flies growing under your skin is disturbing, they aren't harmful. If you are able to handle it, you can leave the fly in the skin and allow it to develop over the eight week period. It will drop out by itself and the wound will heal.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a bot fly and where can it be found?

A bot fly is a type of parasitic insect belonging to the family Oestridae. These flies are notorious for their larvae, which live as internal parasites within the tissues of living mammals. Bot flies are found in various regions across the globe, with different species inhabiting specific geographical areas. For instance, the Dermatobia hominis is prevalent in Central and South America.

How do bot flies infect their hosts?

Bot flies employ a unique method of transmission. Some species, like the human bot fly, capture mosquitoes and lay eggs on them. When the mosquito bites a mammal, the eggs hatch due to the host's body heat, and the larvae penetrate the skin. Other species lay eggs near or on the host directly, where larvae can enter through openings or attach to the skin.

What are the symptoms of a bot fly infestation in animals?

Animals infested with bot fly larvae may exhibit a range of symptoms including localized swelling, a raised lesion with a central pore, discomfort, and secondary infections. The affected area may secrete fluids, and in some cases, the host might feel the movement of the larvae. Veterinary attention is crucial to manage these symptoms and remove the larvae.

Can bot flies harm humans?

Yes, bot flies can harm humans. The human bot fly, Dermatobia hominis, is known to parasitize humans. The larvae burrow under the skin causing painful, boil-like lesions that can become infected. While not typically life-threatening, the experience can be distressing, and medical intervention is often required to extract the larvae and treat the affected area.

What is the lifecycle of a bot fly?

The lifecycle of a bot fly includes four stages: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. After hatching, the larvae penetrate the host's skin and develop inside the subcutaneous layer. They then drop to the ground to pupate in the soil. The complete cycle from egg to adult can take several weeks to months, depending on environmental conditions and species.

How can bot fly infestations be prevented or treated?

Preventing bot fly infestations involves avoiding areas where bot flies are common, using insect repellent, and wearing protective clothing. For animals, regular veterinary care and insecticides can help prevent infestation. Treatment typically requires the physical removal of the larvae, which should be done by a healthcare professional to avoid complications and secondary infections.

AllThingsNature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon1004913 — On May 15, 2021

I have the same thing, people. I'm crazy. I know exactly what you're going through. What do you use to treat yourself? I use Vaseline and baking soda. I've been this way since January. Are there pictures of the flies?

By anon999191 — On Nov 13, 2017

Gee, and people laugh at me because I do research instead of play dead brain games. Yes I have seen bot flies. I thought they were harmless, weird flying bugs. They don't look like a fly! An uber driver told me about them, and now, not only do I have mosquitoes to kill, but bot flies are added to the list! I've been really sick because something bit my neck. Study on!

By Lodeseba — On Jan 15, 2014

I wonder how common bot fly infestations are in the US? Hopefully, I never have to use any of these remedies.

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