Botflies are are a family of winged insects known for gestating their larvae inside the bodies of mammals like horses, deer, and the occasional human. Like most flies, botflies live incredibly short lives, but their brief life spans are the stuff of science fiction nightmares. After mating, female botflies track down other insects like mosquitoes or ticks and attach their freshly fertilized eggs to them. In a kinder, gentler world the story of the botfly would stop there with the bugs growing inside of another pest, but things get much worse.
Botfly eggs stay dormant until their host insect comes in contact with a larger, warm blooded host (like you), at which point they pop out of their eggs, burrow into the host’s skin, and anchor themselves to their flesh using a series of barbs that make them almost impossible to get out. As the growing larva leeches life out of its host’s bloodstream, large bumps that secrete pus develop where they first burrowed in. As if things weren’t bad enough, people unlucky enough to play host to botfly larvae can sometimes feel the parasite inside of themselves and see it squirming around though an opening in the bump that the bug uses to breathe through.
The most interesting (and delicious) thing about the botfly, though, is what people have been using to get them out of their bodies.
As PBS’s Anna Rothschild explains in this handy video, laying strips of bacon on top of botfly wounds is a popular method of removing them. While trying to scratch a botfly larva out of your skin would prove to be painful and probably fruitless, coaxing it out with a more delicious piece of meat is actually pretty effective. It’s sort of like getting a wax, if you think about it. The larva attaches itself to the bacon and once it’s adhered, you peel the strip (and the bug) right off.
The takeaway? Nature is a horrifying as bacon is delicious.