Posted by: Johan Normark | May 11, 2010

A tribute to the botfly

One of the most adorable creatures one can encounter in the forests of Central America is the human botfly (Dermatobia hominis) or colmoyote as it is called locally. When I first heard about it I thought people said “butt fly” and I wondered if it fancied that particular part of the human body. It is more likely that it will encounter you through the intervention of mosquitos, muscoid flies and ticks. The female botfly captures one of these other creatures and attaches eggs on its body and then let it go. Usually the eggs hatch when the mosquito has penetrated the skin and enter the hole. The larvae develop inside the skin and after about eight weeks they exit the host to pupate for another week in the soil.

Now, according to Wikipedia, the larvae cannot survive if the wound becomes infected and the larvae may produce antibiotic secretions to prevent infection during its feeding. It can be removed with nail polish and tape to suffocate the fellow. If one tries to squeeze it out you may kill it and cause infection.

I have had the pleasure of being a host several times when I worked in Belize (but I have so far not hosted anyone in the Cochuah region). At one point I had three on my back. One of them left a huge crater that took months to seal. There are plenty of stories about these fellows. One story says that a guy had one in the head and while he was driving on a motorcycle the larva began to eat. The man crashed with his motorcycle. The botflies end up where the mosquito, tick or muscoid flies end up. I spare you the images of people with botflies in their eye or on their genitals. At least you know when the larva has his/her feeding time. It can be felt quite a bit, especially if you have three guests at the same time.

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