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The Human Botfly (Dermatobia hominis)

Updated: Sep 19, 2022

There are many different species of botflies out there, but this one is the most common one that is a parasite to humans. So, if you have watched those fascinating videos of botfly removal on YouTube or Instagram, you might be wondering what they are. Well, let's look to the science to answer these questions!

Physical Description and Behavior

The adult flies are small, only being about 12-18 mm in length. In fact, the larval stage is actually larger than the adults, being as much as 25mm in length. They look similar to a bumblebee with their large eyes but have a more blueish appearance to them.

The females plant their eggs on their hosts by using another bug or parasite to do so. They will grab the unsuspecting bug and then glue their eggs onto their abdomen. This allows the eggs to fall off on a new host when the bug, such as a mosquito, lands on them.

The adults are non-feeding, which means that they die soon after becoming an adult. But the feeding habits of the larvae are that of nightmares. They are endoparasites, boring into the skin of birds and mammals, eating at their flesh from the inside.

Due to the fact that they have mechanisms to prevent you from pulling them out, you have to be more creative. This includes drowning the larvae with a lubricant like petroleum jelly, before slowly pulling them out of the hole. How does this work? Well, they breath through their abdomen, so blocking the little spot where they are breathing out of the organisms' skin forces them to seek air so they start backing out [shivers]. They can then be carefully secured with forceps and pulled out.

Habitat and Location

The IUCN Red List does not have any classification for these flies. But it is known that they live in the tropical and semi-tropical areas of America. For instance, they are more likely to be found in Mexico. They can also be found all throughout South America from Argentina to Paraguay.

To learn more about this creepy little fly, check out this video below!

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