Back in 2001, we created this website to provide an informative resource for those seeking help with the Human Botfly. There was little information available then. Yet, there were many folks just like us who had traveled outside of the United States and came into contact with the human botfly. Upon returning home, they found themselves in the unenviable position of having a medical condition which they could not explain. For many, if not most, a trip to the doctor’s office yielded no relief. We encouraged visitors to email us their stories. We received literally hundreds of emails. Most granted us permission to post their stories on this website, as they too wanted to help others. Here are some of those stories.
Below is the correspondence with Dr. Leon Higley. His site on Bug of the Week was the first Mark and I came upon on the internet regarding botfly’s.
At 05:36 PM 4/11/2001 -0500, you wrote:
We had a very bad….interesting experience with botflys. Thanks to your website we were able to find out more information on them. I have created a website telling about the experience. On the our site is the address of your site & a photo from your page. I am hoping after you look at it that you will be pleased and allow it to stay on our site. If not please let me know and I will remove it. You can see this page by going to www.vexman.com and clicking on the botfly story. It’s very ironic that both men that were bitten by a botfly happened to be named Mark!
Hope to hear from you in regards to our botfly story.
I seem to get lots of bot fly stories since I posted the website, but your story certainly trumps all that I’ve heard before. The photo actually belongs to Jim Kalisch, a technologist in our department, but I’m sure Jim will have no objection to your use of the photo (I’ll check with him this afternoon). I’m surprised by the frequency with which infestations are misdiagnosed. The photos you have show a fully developed (third stage) larva; those I’ve seen were only second stage. If there is any chance we could get copies of these photos, I’d like to post them on our site (I’m supposed to do a large web site on bot flies, but I don’t suppose that will get started until this summer) and they would be great for teaching. Perhaps I need to contact Dr. Higgs about this, so if you have his address (e-mail or otherwise) I’d appreciate it. I have a variety of stories that people have supplied on torsalo infestations, but Mark’s scrotal infestation certainly is unique. Mark might want to know that most people seem to start freaking out with second stage larval feeding, so I’m not surprised he had such a miserable time with third stage larvae. I hope he is doing better now, and I appreciate your/his willingness to share his experience.
We too visited Arenal in CR this June. Upon return, my 8 year old daughter kept complaining about shooting pains periodically coming from
two “mosquito bites” on her head. The pediatrician confidently diagnosed it as impetigo and put her on anti-biotics. After 10 days and no results – stronger AB’s. After 4 days and no results – off to the dermatologist. Dr. Skin can’t figure it out so she decides to do a biopsy. Much to her surprise – it’s a maggot!. Congratulations! you have given birth to twin 5 week old botfly larvae! The dermatologists office thought this was the coolest thing since alligator shoes. Found your story on the net after scraping Mom up off the floor. Thanks for sharing your experience! It does make for good gross-out story telling…
Wow, that’s quite a story…I must say, I never thought I would hear one better than mine, but you win. Congratulations 🙂 I just feel compelled to share my story with you because, if anyone else, you’ll be able to sympathize. I went to Belize this summer with my father for a scuba trip. We dove every day except for one : the last day, where we went and hiked through the Mayan jungle and then went cave tubing. While in the jungle, I happened to get a couple of mosquito bites on my leg, which I thought nothing of. Two weeks after arriving back home, they were still there, itchy and painful as ever, so I went to the doctor. I had previously heard something about botflies, but didn’t really think it was possible. So when I went in to see the doctor, he told me it was just an infected mosquito bite, nothing more. After I told him what I knew about botflies (although I didn’t know the name at the time), he decided that they would lance the largest one and drain it (because, according to him, I was overreacting). No more than two minutes after they had opened the bite, they pulled out a little wriggling botfly. Now, of course, they had no idea what it was, so both the doctor and the physicians assistant flipped out and called the CDC….so then they opened the second bite, but didn’t find anything. After all that, they glued my leg back together and gave me some medicine.
A month later, the second bite they had opened wasn’t healing at all (the first one healed and there’s barely a scar), so I went back to the doctor. They opened it up again, this time digging all the way down to the muscle, and still didn’t find anything. They sewed my leg up again, gave me more drugs, and sent me on my way. A week later, I came back to have my stitches removed, and it still wasn’t healed, so he began talking about simply removing all of the tissue that next week. Two days after that appointment, I was looking at the wound and it appeared to be moving! I thought I was going crazy, and I showed it to a lady at work who used to be a nurse. She told me it was probably just pus trying to work its way out, so I shouldn’t worry. Later that day, I would push on it a bit and this big long white thing would come out of it. Now, by this time, I was getting pretty sick of having bugs in my leg, so I called the doctor immediately and told him what was up….he made me come in that afternoon. I showed him the thing and he said “Its a maggot, we have to get that out of there”. So they pulled out this 1.5 inch botfly maggot, and sent me home. The very next day, I bent down to pull off my Band-Aid, when another maggot fell off on my hand. I called my neighbor, who is a plastic surgeon, and he came over to look at it. After inspecting it, he decided we needed to go to the emergency room and take out all of the tissue in the area. So now, because of a great trip to Belize, I’m left with 2 very purple scars on my leg 🙂 I’m just glad to know that I’m not the only freak this happens to!
I want to thank you for placing your account with the bot fly infestation on the internet. My husband and I traveled in late September-early October to Belize. Not too long after our return, I noticed a lump on the top of his head and asked him if he had hit his head or something. He teased me for my violent ways, said it was probably a pulled hair, and said it would go away. Well, it didn’t and it was sore and oozing fluid. Like any good wife, I demanded that he see a doctor before I became a widow (I was irrationally thinking it was some form of cancer at that point). The first doctor thinks nothing of it, gives him some antibiotic ointment and pills and sends him on his way. When that doesn’t change anything in 3 days, I hit the roof and told him he had to get a second opinion or resolve himself to sleeping on the couch. He calls the other doctor back who suggests he see a surgeon to see if it is something that needs to be removed.
Imagine the surprise when the doctor’s local surgery REMOVES A WHOLE OBJECT from his head. The doctor was so surprised he almost dropped the thing. It was nothing he had ever seen and, after cutting it open to look inside, he sends it off to a lab.
Imagine OUR surprise when the doctor calls today saying it was some kind of fly infestation. The ONLY reason we know it’s a bot fly larvae is because we typed in “fly lays egg under skin” into the Google search engine. Warbles? Bot flies?! Damn bot fly pictures look just like the one that came from his head.
My husband has called the doctor back with the identifying information. Thanks for sharing your story and listening to mine!
Mine got me in Belize. Not sure where exactly. Probably hiking in Blue Hole National Park. I still think it is unfair that while my wife seemed to be a mosquito-magnet, I was the one who got the bot fly!
I now were a hat to cover the shaved patch in the top of my head. After reading your account, I suppose I should be thankful that I was bitten
where I was, though.
Hope Mark is recovering satisfactorily.
D. Edward Farrar
BY FAR MY MOST FAVORITE WRITTEN STORY
…yes, it’s true…I wasn’t going to tell everyone but rumors have been spreading here in San Diego, so I thought I’d better let everyone know officially. I understand that most of you know me as a master of exaggeration, and some may say ‘King of bullshit’; but what I am about to say, my friends, is by NO MEANS a prank or stretch of the imagination – you better be sitting down…(…Lord knows I’m not…) …Let me explain….. (…soft jungle drumbeat please…) …as most of you know, I’ve recently returned from the jungles of Central America – a quite lengthy trip at that…a beautiful land with cascading waterfalls, limestone caves that extend 20-30 miles, human sacrifice pits, monkeys swinging from the lush green canopies above, colorful Parrots and Toucans more numerous than silicone breasts on a Baywatch episode…wild animals breaking the silence of the night with spine tingling howls – and ravenous mosquitoes the size of hummingbirds…
Upon my return from another, fortunately still well hidden, paradise – I began to feel a little ‘out of balance.’ I noticed I was eating alot more, sleeping very little with frequent nocturnal bathroom breaks. One afternoon, after lunch at a McDonalds; I was hence to find I’ve subconsciously left the pickles on my burger where for 30 years previous to that – I would have not… This is when I became concerned. I made an appointment at the well known and World respected Kaiser Hospital in Clairemont Mesa (a hospital usually reserved only for royalty and such.) Upon a brief introduction to my doctor, I soon found myself dis-robed in front of her…(I didn’t even have to buy her a drink) She gave a quick examination, and while behind me she made a few strange vocal expressions and then scurried out the door to consult a medical book. Her return was not quick, and her once sweet smiling face was now turned to an unusual grimace that would resemble maybe someone who had just had their knuckles crushed while simultaneously swallowing a Tabasco filled, premature lemon… She asked me to describe my recent past in detail – and to expand on any events which I had pondered as peculiar… Why then, my thoughts became light again, as I drifted
off to recant the tales of the rainforest and warm affectionate Tapirs… I was with a puzzled look upon my face as she interrupted and proceeded to finish my story for me… she continued that while asleep in an open jungle cabana near the Macal River I must have been intimately visited by a young native woman; yes, young she was indeed, but with large eyes and a beautiful name… those who know her well call her Hominis….Dermatobia Hominis that is… an evil bitch of a creature that lays eggs to be hatched only upon warm blooded hosts while they sleep in peace…and one of those eggs had hatched and a bouncing baby larvae has burrowed into my upper leg (lower buttock) region. Given time, it will then (after eating copious amounts of flesh) will crawl out and undergo metamorphossisesess (sp?) to a fly and then try to find a mate for its short airborne life….It is presently enjoying a rather pleasant stay; under the hospitals orders that they don’t want to kill it inside of me, they can’t remove it surgically until it gets larger, and they want me to provide a more mature specimen for study (I am one of now 4 in the last 10 years in San Diego to have one of these horrendous afflictions.
I used to be of the Anti-Abortion stance….but now considering actually being faced with the situation – I must admit, I have leaned a little more to the Pro-Choice side…and, have recently scoffed at the doctor’s orders, and taken it upon myself to do a home abortion technique. This was a very tough and emotional decision for me; my friends Nancy and Alex have begged for me to keep it – and have even named him ‘Edgar’ they say I have other options, and I’m just taking the easy way out…. that’s there’s two lives I need to think about now… and then there’s the
heavy flak from the religious community as well… but alas, I have decided… (I actually have received native remedy advice from one of the local Taxi Drivers who is Guatemalan but grew up in the vast metropolis of Belmopan, the Belizean Capital – population of 7,000 and a plethora of jungle medicine expertise…)
Interesting side-note: Recently, I almost had a bad car accident on my way to go skiing. At about 78 mph, I felt the worst stabbing pain I have ever had in my life. My legs went numb, my eyes went shut, and I started swerving all over Interstate 215 Northbound. However, while snowboarding, I was having a lovely chat on the slopes. Since it was warm, I was not wearing very thick pants. Throughout this 10 minute or so conversation, my butt became frozen to the ski slope – and after breaking free I noticed that I didn’t feel Edgar anymore. And for the next two nights I slept peacefully without the usual nightmares of ‘Alien’ or ‘The Fly.’ But about three days later, he came back and is now madder than hell…
I encourage all who have read this lamentable tragedy to do further research by internet, look for: Dermatobia Hominis, Bot Fly, or Human Bot-fly, Botfly.
So now, that I got a wild bug up my ass; …in closing…I would like to present a little something I came up with to describe my last 4 weeks….
There once was a young man named John
Who couldn’t stay land-locked too long
so he bought him a ticket
to the jungle and thicket
and nude dancing to sweet island song
But was bit in the ass
by an insect so crass
that it injects a worm
to wiggle and squirm
and form an infectious mass
Quick return to the states
for the verdict that awaits
from the doctor and nurse
to cure this damn curse
before the -X#$(* IN thing mates
But Alex and Nancy then said
Dear John, there’s nothing to dread
Nancy knitted a quilt
for the cradle Alex built
to become Edgar’s nursery bed
So Edgar’s his name
but my decision still the same
and the next time I’m plastered
I’ll kill this damn bastard
and hold not one ounce of shame
After responding to his story, here is his reply.
Thank you for responding…I found your website story a week ago while researching this demon. I thought it would be nice share the fact that there are others with similar experiences…and I thoroughly enjoyed those writings!!!!
I had him removed late last night at the Emergency Room – it was absolutely killing me!!! I was going crazy… now he’s in a test tube in my kitchen..
good luck to you and yours!!!
John; Proud Father
Thank you for your very witty and useful website on Mark’s Human Botfly
For the last six weeks, after a trip to Belize etc, I have had a Botfly larva in my scalp at the back of my head. I couldn’t see it but I could feel it, as no doubt you can imagine! I went through four doctors in as many weeks (and lots of antibiotics and tests) before eventually meeting one who recognized the problem instantly.
Mark’s story was a great source of information and inspiration during the last fortnight, once I knew what to look for. It’s always reassuring to know that someone else has survived a much more grueling ordeal!
Botty was removed surgically today. He didn’t want to leave and hung on grimly until the resourceful doc gave him a mouthful of saline solution through a syringe.
With best wishes,
Upon doing some research on human botfly, I came across your website. We live on the Big Island of Hawaii and my husband was “hit” with botfly in his left eye. He went to the ER and they pulled out 16 larvae from his eye. That was 2 weeks ago. Now he is having severe nasal and sinus problems. The ER doctor told us that sometimes, although rare, the larvae can get into the nasal passages and grow. We suspect that this is the problem. However, after reading your story, we are having similar things happen to us as far as the doctors not believing us. It is quite frustrating. I thought you’d be interested to know that, according to our ER doctor, the “botfly” is only found on the Big Island in the Western World. Lucky us!
Denise Smith Swanhart
My wife and I honeymooned in Punta Islita the first week of April, of this year. I only recently had the “worm” removed and discovered what it was. Fortunately for me it was digging only in my arm. None of the Dr’s I saw had a clue what was infecting my arm and my wife, all along said …”it’s a worm…it’s a worm.” She even named it Herman the Worm, all this before we actually knew it was a worm!
What a story I will have for a long time!! It was my 15 minutes of fame at the hospital.
Icthamol- aka as pine tar also works great. Apply , bandage and remove takes about 2 days. I went to CR late August 2002 , 4 weeks later I still had bites that looked worse. I used this to draw it out, I thought maybe a stinger was left inside but, to my surprise it was 2 larvae’s. Took to the doctor and he classified as a botfly.
Please pass this on, I hate to see people getting cut open for nothing the icthamol works great.
Dear Mark and Brenda,
Rick and I want to thank you for your Botfly story. We returned from Belize November 16. While in Belize, we had hiked in the jungle on two separate occasions. While I had used insect repellent in my hair and scalp, Rick did not.
About a week after we returned from Belize to Columbus, Ohio, Rick noticed bumps in his scalp that later began to itch. Then they started seeping. Then came the stabbing pain. By the time we thought he should do something about it, it was Thanksgiving weekend and impossible to see a doctor. So we called a pharmacist friend who said we should alternate cortisone cream with antibiotic cream. I also used a “bite stick” with ammonia in it on the bites.” No improvement. On Monday, December 2, Rick went to his doctor, who diagnosed a bacterial skin infection, prescribing oral and topical antibiotics. By December 6 there was no improvement, and the pain would come at anytime with not warning and be excruciating. That evening, as Rick sat at the computer, blood began running down his head and side of his face from one of the holes/bites/what ever they were.
I couldn’t stand it any longer. I started searching on the internet. I used terms like “bleeding scalp” and found lots about head wounds. The next day I was going to go Christmas shopping, but I couldn’t stand to see Rick in pain and with no improvement, so more internet searching supplanted the shopping (I made up for it by shopping on the web later). At the Center for Disease Control site, I started looking at different types of insects, came across the botfly and performed another search: “bacterial skin infection botfly Belize” and voila! your botfly article came up. I read it, printed it out (in full color) and took the papers in to Rick. “You’re not going to like this,” I said. First we tried meat taped onto his head (shaved portions of his head first) using painters tape and covered by a hat. When we removed the meat, we could find small bore holes in the meat but no larva. (It was great calling him “meathead” all weekend.) Then we moved on to Elmer’s school glue. Seemed those little buggers could “eat” through the dried glue and breathe all the same.
By Monday December 9, Rick had faxed your article to his doctor, who said to try superglue. This did the trick. We had been afraid to kill the suckers while still imbedded in the skin. Seems that superglue works because it dries so fast, and you can glob it on. When we peeled back the superglue, part of the larva was sticking out of the skin (must have been trying to get air and got caught). The dead larva could be pulled out by the part sticking out (using a Kleenex when grasping it), but the surest way to get them out was to squeeze them out (a couple of times they shot 2 feet into the air which meant I jumped about 2 feet myself.) One time, when one was pulled out, only half of it came out, with the remainder having to be squeezed out. I got all out but one, covered it with antibacterial cream and watched it with a light and magnifying glass. Sure enough, the cream was showing a bubble. These babies definitely won’t squeeze out if still alive. One more application of superglue did it, and the next morning, the last one jumped out to greet the day with an easy squeeze. Just thought you’d want to know about the superglue treatment. Definitely the most effective and efficient. Turns out Rick had 5 botfly larvae in his scalp.
We dropped them into a half-full miniature bottle of Jack Daniels (kind of like the worm in the Tequila) and sent them off to his doctor who definitely wanted to examine them. All the while I cared for Rick (and the botflies), I kept saying that part of the wedding vow to myself, “In sickness and in health.” When those nasty things came out, I couldn’t stop saying, “You poor man, you poor man.” You see, when he’d stop in the middle of walking, hold his head in pain and grimace and yelp, I had been a bit skeptical before I knew what these things were. Now, I will never doubt him when he says he is in pain. THANK YOU, for putting your article on the web. Who knows how long it would have taken to get a correct diagnosis in Columbus, Ohio? We are grateful to you.
Jennifer and Rick Brunner
P.S. When a buddy of Rick’s heard about his botflies, he e-mailed Rick saying, “You know I always thought your wife looked like Sigourney Weaver, but don’t you think you’re taking this alien thing a little too far?” Thanks again.