Home Flies How to Remove a Botfly Larvae from Human Skin & Pets

How to Remove a Botfly Larvae from Human Skin & Pets

The botfly is a parasitic insect that preys on human and animal skin. They host on the mammals for as long as even six months of their life cycle. The botfly larvae fall into the category of the most prevalent parasitic species of insects. They can be found on cats/kittens, dogs, horses, and other animals.

In this article, find out about how you can remove the larvae from your skin, or your pet’s skin plus, signs of an infestation, the life cycle and more other facts about this insect.

How to Remove Botfly Larvae

Before exploring details on the botfly, let’s look at how you can remove the larvae from the human skin and from pets.

Botfly larvae worm picture
Picture of how a botfly larvae looks like

From Human Skin

If you have an infestation of larval flies, it is termed as Myiasis. It’s part of their lifecycle. If you’re looking to remove the flies from the human skin, there are various methods you can use. 

  • Anaesthetic- the topical drug will allow for one to enlarge the burrowed area of the skin. Once the hole is widened, using a forceps, slightly pull out the larvae from the host.
  • Venom extractor- this a wide syringe that you can use to suck out the larvae from the hole. It is best used for small flies to avoid crushing it in the process.
  • Flooding the opening with iodine or anti-parasitic avermectin. Either choice will lead to the emergence of the larvae from the hole.
  • Applying the sap of the matatorsalo tree – this will kill the larvae but does not remove it from the hole.
  • Use of adhesive tape- this will shift entry of air into the hole suffocating the larvae. Once the tape is out, it will also pull out the fly.
  • Suffocation – you can forcefully squeeze the air out or the larvae from the hole. This is not recommended as the larvae can crush causing it to release dangerous and harmful toxins in the body. The fluids could lead to anaphylactic shock or increase the chances of an infection in your body.

It is highly advised to exudate the fly’s larvae because it can last up to 3 months simply feeding on your bodily tissues. Use either of these options above to get rid of it as soon as possible.

Dog, Cat & Horse

The most common pets infested by this insect are these. To remove the larvae, simply follow this guide below;

  1. Wear protective clothing such as medical gloves made of non-latex to ensure the larva doesn’t exit the animal and into your skin.
  2. Lie the animal flat to expose the infested areas. Separate the fur from the cat or dog. You may trim or cut the fur around the area to increase visibility.
  3. Hold the animal form to the ground, take your pair of tweezers and place it at the opening of the burrow.
  4. Grasp the head of the larvae and gently extract it from the area. Being gentle is essential to ensure you don’t leave any segments there that could leave to a regrowth of the fly.
  5. Dispose of the larvae and check the animal further to see if there may be more larvae inside.
  6. Clean the animal with warm water and antibacterial soap to get rid of the germs.
  7. Visit a veterinary clinic for a further check-up or to get antibiotics to prevent further infections by the germs emitted by the fly larvae.

Intense Multiple Bot Fly Removal Videos

Following are Youtube videos showing live removal of botfly worms from kitten eye and skin.

Botfly how it to skin removal

More links to Youtube videos

Removal of multiple worms from human skin

Removal from kitten Eye

Botfly Signs

So how can you tell you or your pet had been infested by the botfly larvae? Well, the infestations are not that obvious but you should see an irritated bump with a penetrating hole. This symbolizes where the larvae could be breeding.

If you take a closer look at the bump, you may see or feel movement inside the lump. That definitely means there’s a larva there.

More about the Botfly Insect  & Life Cycle

You already know that it’s parasitic in nature and that it loves to pray and live under the skin of warm-blooded animals. Well, here are some more facts you may not know about them.

Adult botfly

The insect loves to feed off dead tissue, especially while it’s on its larva stage of metamorphosis where it creates a horrifying hole on skin and lives of there until it grows to the adult stage.

In terms of their entomology, they are classified under the family Oestridae. Their obligate internal mammalian nature doesn’t allow for the survival of the flies unless it lives off a suitable host, in this case, a human or pet. The most common species of botfly that tends to live off the host is known as  Dermatobia hominis.

There is type of botfly called Warble flies, gadflies, or heel flies, that has a metallic-like look. It’s hairy with yellow and black bands on it’s back. Its size is about  12 to 19 mm.

In terms of what they feed on, only the larvae depend on mammalian flesh, the adult can survive without, and besides, it doesn’t have mouthparts. Their entire lifespan is about two months only.

Life Cycle

The insect’s life span begins with two adults mating causing the female to deposit about 300 eggs. These eggs are commonly laid in a host or in some cases on a vector such as mosquitoes, houseflies, and ticks. This is because some animals are wary of these insects.

Once the eggs are laid on a warm-blooded animal, the temperatures make it conducive for the eggs to attach itself onto the skin and hence, burrowing it. The eggs will then hatch to larvae which pierce the skin to form a breathing space for the larvae.

This explains the disgusting holes they make, it allows them to exchange goes in and out. The larvae will then slowly grow from the host after which it will melt and finally drop to the ground to form a pupa, then adult.

The parasite will not kill the host as it needs it to grow. But the irritation on the skin causes severe infection and skin ulceration.  Besides the mentioned species, others simply burrow into the host’s intestines and its only until the animal excretes, when the life cycle to maturity completes.


How Common are Botfly Infections?

Not very common.  The Dermatobia hominis, the species of the botfly, is indigenous to Central and South America. Seeing that it hasn’t completely spread to international waters, there have been very rare cases of infestation. Besides, many cases reported pertaining to animals such as horses, cows, or cats.

Can Botflies Kill Humans and Pets

No, as explained above, they do not kill the host animal. They are true parasites in nature hence they highly depend on the survival of its hosts so it can feed off of it. However, you may experience discomfort, or you may contract an infection attributed to the germs introduced by the fly.

How Does a Person Get a Bot fly Infestation?

Once the adult female fly has mated, it will lay eggs on the host. The eggs are deposited on animal or human skin directly, or the larvae hatch and drop from the eggs attached to the intermediate vector; the mosquito or ticks.

Thanks to the body heat from the warm-blooded animals, the botfly larva will burrow itself in the host and continue to grow itself over time until its ready to move to the third stage, pupa which then drops from the hole. As for the ones that attack the intestines, they continuously lick the intestines until they are ready to leave, where they will have to be excreted.

What Happens If a Bot Fly is not Removed?

You already know that you can’t die from an infestation by the botfly larvae but you can get an Infection that can turn severe if left untreated over an extended period of time. You see the larvae will only host itself for a specified time until which it will drip itself from the host and into the ground to complete its life cycle.

By then, it has left its germs inside you and in your tissues that could cause damage and other unknown conditions and diseases once ignored.

How Do You Get Rid of a Botfly?

The most straightforward way to remove the botfly larvae is to iodize the open wound through the hole. Since that’s its breathing Space, cutting off oxygen supply should do the trick. The use of iodine will cause the botfly to peel out of the hole allowing you to quickly and gently pull it out of the skin.

Similarly, you can use plant extracts such as tree sap from the matatorsalo tree found in Costa Rica. The sap is a known killer of the larva. Unfortunately, it will kill the fly leaving the body inside the skin rendering it harmful to the host, especially if one is unable to retrieve it from the skin.

Another method is by use of petroleum jelly or nail polish. The essence is to enlarge the breathing space to allow one to quickly pull out the larva from its hiding space. This method, however, requires a professional as you don’t wish to further injure yourself or cause any further pain.

The idea of using suffocation is also another great way to remove the larva but the possibility of rupturing the fly is high. Leading to further damage once the bodily fluids are released inside the body of the host. This is also the case of using an adhesive tape. The risk of getting infected is considerably higher.

Do Bot Flies Live in the United States?

The botfly insect is native to Central and South America; precisely Mexico. It’s quite indigenous to the USA and Europe hence infections or infestation by the larva is not a common condition. However, other species of the botfly insect can be found around the globe in warm and sub-tropical areas.

Further Reading


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