You must’ve heard about a botfly and is wondering! whats a botfly right? Let us explain, 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.
Botflies, also known as warbles typically lives in the Americas. Botflies are found in various regions of North, Central, and South America, including the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina.
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.
Botfly in Animals and Botfly in Humans
Botfly infections have been known to affect both animals and humans in ways as briefly mentioned below.
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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 of Botfly
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.
Botfly in Dogs and Cats
Botflies, also known as warbles, can infect dogs, cats and other animals. The adult flies lay their eggs on the hair of the animal, and when the eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into the skin. The larvae then form a lump or “warble” on the animal’s skin, which can cause itching and discomfort. In dogs, these warbles are most commonly found on the legs, shoulders, and back. Treatment typically involves administering medication to kill the larvae and surgically removing the warbles. In some cases, the warbles may resolve on their own without treatment. It is important to consult with a veterinarian if you suspect your dog has a botfly infestation.
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.
Botfly infestations can be treated by removing the larvae surgically or by suffocating them with petroleum jelly or other occlusive substances. It is important to seek medical attention if you suspect a botfly infestation.
Botfly Removal in Humans
If a botfly larvae is found under the skin, it can be removed by the following method:
- Apply a numbing cream to the area to reduce pain and discomfort.
- Sterilize a pair of tweezers or a needle with rubbing alcohol.
- Using the tweezers or needle, gently lift the edge of the botfly larvae’s breathing hole.
- Apply a small amount of petroleum jelly or wax over the hole to suffocate the botfly larvae.
- Cover the area with a bandage and leave it in place for a day or two.
- After a day or two, remove the bandage and use the tweezers or needle to gently pull the botfly larvae out.
It is important to note that if the botfly larvae is not removed, it will eventually emerge from the skin on its own, but it can cause an infection and it is better to remove it under medical supervision.
It is also important to keep the wound clean and avoid scratching it, to prevent infection.
How to Remove Botfly from Cat at Home (or Dogs)
If you suspect that your cat has a botfly infestation, it is important to take them to a veterinarian for proper treatment. The veterinarian will be able to diagnose the infestation and remove the larvae safely.
If you want to try remove it at home, here are the steps you can take:
- Clean the area around the infestation with soap and water.
- Apply a small amount of mineral oil or petroleum jelly to the infestation. This will suffocate the larvae and make them easier to remove.
- Gently pull the larvae out with a pair of tweezers or a needle. Be sure to remove the entire larvae, as leaving part of it in the skin can cause an infection.
- Clean the area again with soap and water, and apply an antiseptic ointment to the wound.
- Monitor the area for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge. If you notice any of these symptoms, take your cat to the vet immediately.
It is important to note that botfly larvae can be dangerous to handle and can cause severe reactions if they are not handled or removed properly. It is always better to consult a professional veterinarian.
Bot fly Bite Stages
Botfly bites can progress through several stages.
- The initial stage is when the female botfly lays her eggs on a host, such as a human or animal. The eggs hatch into larvae, which are also known as maggots.
- In the second stage, the larvae burrow into the skin, often creating a small, raised bump. This can be painful and itchy, and the area may become red and swollen.
- As the larvae continue to grow, they may cause the bump to enlarge and become more painful. In some cases, a small hole or opening may appear on the surface of the skin, through which the larvae can breathe.
- In the final stage, the larvae are fully grown and ready to leave the host. They will usually exit the skin and drop to the ground, where they will pupate and eventually emerge as adult flies.
It’s important to note that botfly infestations can be dangerous if not treated, so if you suspect you have been bitten by a botfly, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
How to Prevent Botfly in Humans
To prevent botfly infestation in humans, it is important to take preventative measures such as avoiding areas where botflies are known to be present, wearing protective clothing, using insect repellent, and keeping windows and doors screened to prevent flies from entering your home. In addition, it is important to keep the skin clean and avoid scratching or picking at bites or bumps to prevent the botfly larvae from burrowing deeper into the skin. If you suspect that you have been infested with a botfly, seek medical attention immediately to have the larvae safely removed.
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