Many people consider maggots to be disgusting. But they are merely fly larvae, just as caterpillars are butterfly larvae. When an animal dies, blowflies often appear within a couple of hours, drawn by the faint, early scent of death. The maggots of other fly species feed on different sorts of plant and animal material. Some are noxious pests, but maggots also have their good side, too.
Fly Life Cycle
Flies lay eggs in organic substances, according to the Australian Museum. Depending on the species, flies might prefer to deposit their eggs on fruits, vegetables, dead animals or living animals. Flies might lay eggs one at a time or in batches of more than 100, depending on the species. Many females might visit the same place to lay eggs. From the egg on, all flies have similar life cycles.
Fly eggs hatch into maggots within a day. The maggots gorge themselves nonstop, going through three distinctive growth stages over about a five-day span and increasing fivefold in size. In warm weather, according to the Australian Museum, blowfly maggots can eat 60 per cent of an average human body within a week.
Transforming Into Adults
When maggots have grown to full size, they leave their food source and find a place, typically in soil, where they can pupate for about two weeks while they transform from their larval body into adult fly. Flies mate shortly after they emerge from the pupa and start laying eggs within 48 hours of emergence.
Maggots in Living Flesh
Certain fly species lay their eggs on living animals, including humans, according to Canada’s Worsley School science website. Screw worm flies lay eggs in open wounds and on the mucous membranes around body openings, such as the mouth or anus. Botflies lay eggs in wounds, directly on the skin or on a captured mosquito that then carries the eggs to an animal. In these fly species, the maggots hatch, burrow into the skin and begin feeding on living tissue. They leave boil-like lesions on the skin.
They Eat You Alive
Maggots cause extensive and painful damage as they eat a live host, and in extreme cases can cause the animal or human host to die, according to the Worsley School website. Screw worm flies at one time were a major livestock pest in the United States but have been eradicated by mass releases of radiation-sterilised males. However, still occur in tropical rain forests. Botflies are found throughout the United States.
Maggots as Medicine
Maggots might seem gross and disgusting, but they have some medicinal uses. They are valuable in treating skin infections and wounds that don’t respond to conventional treatments, according to the Wound Care Information Network website. Maggot debridement therapy uses maggots of the green blowfly, which eat only the dead flesh from wounds but don’t touch living flesh. Further, the website notes, blowfly maggots’ body secretions have antibiotic properties that kill bacteria that interfere with wound healing.
FDA Maggot Regulations
Medical maggots are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the Wound Care website, and several companies specialise in providing germ-free medical maggots to hospitals in the U.S., Europe and Asia. A medical association, the Biotheraputics Education & Research Foundation, is devoted to the study of maggot therapy and other forms of “symbiotic medicine,” in which living creatures are used to diagnose and treat diseases and disorders. In another medical purpose, forensic analysts use the maggots on a corpse to estimate the time of death, because blowfly development follows a consistent time frame, according to the Australian Museum.