David Coveney

That Botfly Story You’ve Heard From Me 10 Times Already

Argh - looks like an alien!

Argh - looks like an alien!

Please note this is a reproduction of the webpage I originally created for this story. I just thought it’d be better included in my journal rather than off on its own. Easier to manage too. The extraction happened in March 2006. Since then, thanks to B3ta, Digg, StumbleUpon and others, well over 100,000 people have visited and read this story – which is astonishing really. So thank you all.  In the near future I’ll be re-writing this page to make it more thorough and give more information.  In the meantime, enjoy!

Help me find my dad – if you’ve just returned from a holiday in South America, consider taking a look at my page about my father. Does he look familiar to you? If so, drop me a line.

Maybe it’s a karma thing. I dunno. I changed my plans and decided to go to the Peruvian jungle at the last minute because I was tired of mountains and deserts. But I’d forgotten that one advantage of dry mountain terrain is the relative lack of insect life.

The jungle was great, but one day I made the mistake of wearing a thin t-shirt made from a ‘technical’ fibre – ie, cooling and comfortable in the humid heat of the jungle. Mosquitoes struggle to bite through thick cotton, but these fibres are just so easy for them. In one day with this shirt on I managed to acquire about fifty bites, mostly on my back. Interestingly, the locals, even without deet repellent, receive far fewer bites.

One of these bites didn’t heal quite right. A week or so after I’d noticed it would hurt quite a bit, like a needle being pushed into my back. I guessed it was a little infected. This was late February. After a week or so of this I went to my local clinic where the nurse had a good look. She’s travelled tropically herself and was impressively clued up. After enquiries she felt it was likely to be a bug inside me. There then followed a slightly confusing phase when nobody seemed available to help me out, but eventually, after a few visits, a doctor at the famous Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine offered to take a look. He couldn’t find anything at the time, or extract it, sadly, but the pain continued and the now bigger wound was starting to hurt for longer periods of time. This, apparently, is the botfly larvae moving around and snacking on my flesh. Eventually it was a friend (who is also a dentist, which helps) covered the wound with vaseline and watched carefully for some time through a loupe. It soon became obvious that a botfly spiracle was popping up for air every now and again.. Which meant this bad boy was inside me:

The larvae, if left alone, would live inside me for up to eight weeks and grow up to 25mm long before leaving in order to pupate into the adult fly. I believe the fly can then live for up to two weeks, purely on the stored energy from its larval stage – it can’t eat as an adult. The adult then has to mate, and the female with then capture a mosquito in order to lay its eggs on it. When the mosquito bites someone, the eggs fall off and the warmth of the host causes those eggs to hatch and in a very short time the little grub will burrow in and get snacking.


My friend Geraldine is having a baby and has shared the video of its ultrasound. Not wanting to feel left out I thought I’d share my own little ‘baby’ video with the world! But also I felt this page may help people who get the same problem – there are other resources, but none struck me as that clear to the layman, and there are none with a video to show you what to expect.

Some information that I’ve been able to find – the scientific name is Dermatobia Hominis. It has a mouth with scraping hooks, a main body with rows of hooks to hold onto its host, and a spiracle through which it breathes. Symptoms are an enlarging lesion (spot!) that has a small pinhole in the centre for breathing – this hole will not heal as long as the bug is alive. Occasionally you’ll feel sharp stabbing pains, lasting up to half an hour, as it moves or eats. It won’t burrow especially deeply and is unlikely to cause any real damage even if left to mature.

Extraction – we’re currently trying to persuade it out by covering the wound in vaseline. This forces it closer to the surface as its spiracle searches out air, and it may even come out completely. See the video above. As this story progresses I’ll update this page. I also plan to add some links to resources. Watch this space!

OK – I just gave birth to a baby worm. I always said I wanted children, but… not sure if this is the way.

Removal of the botfly larvae:

It wasn’t easy. Squeezing didn’t seem to work, and is said to be almost impossible if the larvae is still alive. So we settled on trying to kill it or weaken it. However, although there are approaches that give you an almost instant kill, the method we used helps to encourage the fella to come closer to the surface.

We needed some kind of dressing that was flexible enough to go on the back and able to keep as much air out as possible. We settled on the lid from a tube of jaffa cakes, filled with vaseline, and thoroughly taped in to place. After a night’s sleep I could feel the wriggling in the morning. Eventually the lid slipped and I removed it completely to see a lot more of the larvae sticking out. Result! I covered it once more, and quickly went to see my friend who was then able to gently tweezer the tip up enough to get another pair of tweezers lower down and slowly extract the bug. Mechanical removal like this isn’t usually advised, but as the larvae was weakened by this point after a night of struggling for air it seemed to be ok. My only concern now is that it might have a twin! But the wound is healing well, which is a very good sign. There’s still some inflammation but it’s improved.

Here’s some pics of the little blighter. Someone could probably make a rather neat little animation. You can see the movement of his mouth parts as he wonders where the hell his meal’s just gone. The goo is just vaseline, by the way.

Pics and video of the little fella:

Click on the images for larger versions.

Botfly LarvaeBotfly LarvaeBotfly LarvaeBotfly LarvaeBotfly LarvaeBotfly LarvaeBotfly LarvaeBotfly Larvae


Botfly Larvae in host video

It could have been worse though… but don’t look if you’re either sensitive or don’t like seeing people’s, erm, hidden bits…. http://sti.bmjjournals.com/cgi/reprint/80/3/183.pdf – membership now required.