A botfly is commonly known as the warble fly, gadfly or heel fly and is categorized under flies scientifically known as Oestridae. It is an ectoparasite that affects mammals through growing in the host animal’s flesh and also in the animal’s gut or stomach. Larvae of a botfly are internal parasites however should not be mistaken for a fully grown fly that is externally harmful in nature.
It should also be noted that humans are frequently affected by the Dermatobia hominis species of the botfly, though other kinds of fly species cause myiasis in the human body.
The word Bot in simple terms refers to a maggot. This maggot has been known to affect both humans and animals as will be analyzed below.
The botfly is any fly in the Oestridae family, and as such their lifecycles change greatly depending on specific fly species.
The lifecycle of a botfly or Dermatobia hominis for the humans and Gasterophilus in mammals, are a sort of bumblebee that needs a human being or mammal host so that they are able to start and complete their lifecycle. This lifecycle is made up of three distinct stages as summarized below.
- The transmission of the egg
Mature female botflies lay their eggs on any blood-sucking insects such as mosquitoes or ticks that affect most mammals. This is usually done during the botfly flight. The process described is known as phoresy.
In 10 to 140 days, the mosquito or tick consumes a blood meal. In doing so, the mature botfly eggs will move from the host to the warm-blooded animal such as a cow, dog or human, the eggs will then hatch upon feeling the warm temperature.
Another way could be the female botfly lay their eggs on mammal hair follicles causing itching thus making animals scratch the area of irritation or biting the area to which the eggs enter the body.
- The grab stage
On entry into the body, the eggs hatch into larvae and attached to the body system walls. From this location, they feed on tissue and grow. In early spring, they fall off and are expelled through mammal faeces.
- Rest and Renewal.
On expulsion, they fall to the ground and burrow into the soil and begin to pupate in 2 to 3 days. At this stage, they don’t feed and remain dormant all the while they develop into adults. This usually takes a month. Once mature the adults emerge from the ground and begin their life cycle again.
HOW IT CAN AFFECT ANIMALS AND HUMANS
Botfly infections have been known to affect both animals and humans in ways as briefly mentioned below.
On attachment of larvae to the stomach tissue or small intestine, the tissue gets a mild irritation that leads ulcerations in that area. These ulcers become very painful with time if not treated.
In addition, it creates painful sores on the areas in which the larvae burrow into the body of the mammals.
Symptoms include a very painful small swelling or pore, firm furuncular lesion around the same pore. Because of the very rare occurrence of botfly infections, these are usually misdiagnosed as leishmaniasis, cellulitis or furunculosis.
Insect bites or staphylococcal because of the mentioned bare very similar traits.
It is highly advisable to seek specialist medical advice if there is any infection. Get this from a doctor in case of human infection and a vet from animal infection.
The fastest way, however, is by putting a substantial amount of iodine in the affected area. The botfly will be irritated and eventually poke out of the hole in the skin.
Another method is by using the tree sap of the matatorsalo. This tree is very popular in Costa Rica. By applying the sap over the pore or hole, oxygen is blocked off, the sap has specifically reactive chemicals that affect botfly larvae causing them to poke out on contact.
Alternatively, one can use nail polish to cover the affected hole, blocking oxygen to the larvae. It is ill advisable squeezing the larvae out however because it will rupture in ward.
Read more about botflies here
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