beware the botfly

The doctor returned and prescribed fatty bacon and tweezers as my only remedy other than surgery and sent me on my way. I returned home with a batch of bacon in hand and recruited a neighbor kid to help me extract the Botflies….”

 

by tom manning

 

(Dedicated to the burrito-eating young professionals in Washington D.C.)

My girlfriend recently broke up with me. I was devastated – we had dated for nearly three years. She told me on the phone one evening as I watched the sun go down. She said, “Tom I think we should see other people.” Then she added. “It’s not you it’s me.” I wanted to say, you bet your ass it’s you sweetheart because – “I’m so money,” but I didn’t. I thought her timing was ironic (she knew I liked to watch sunsets) – it had a powerful effect on me and I began to cry. I sobbed for a long while. I was beginning to settle down when I noticed a red sore with a fleck of pus oozing out on my right arm. Then, I noticed other red spots – some had pus oozing out, some didn’t. I ventured to the lavatory for a closer examination and it was there my worst fears were confirmed. Those f—in’ Botflies were back!

I’m a geologist and my work over the last year has led me to Costa Rica many times to examine obscure volcanic rocks native only to La Fortuna, Costa Rica. We geologists call them Fraggs rather than their full scientific name Fraggmellotos. On my second trip to La Fortuna I was bitten several times by mosquitos one particular night when they were especially bad. My partner Stanley had commented, “Damn, these mosquitos are bad tonight. I don’t even dare take a piss out here.” Two weeks after returning to the States I noticed multiple red infected bumps on my arms. Initially I thought they were simply mosquito bites. But after an additional week had passed they became more infected and pus began to drain from them. I called Stanley and asked if he had any pus-filled sores. “No, why do you – did your ass get fragged in Costa Rica?” He answered sounding disturbed but comedic. “Yes, their all over my arms.” “Oh man, that’s scary.” “I know, I know – I’ll talk to you later.” I said. The next day I became especially concerned when I felt something move inside of the most infected bump.

I went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with Human Botfly infestation. The doctor’s eyes widened when he saw the sores. He stared in amazement for a moment and then scurried off. He returned ten minutes later with his diagnosis and a book for support. “I’ve never seen this in real life,” he explained looking at the book and then my bumps, “But I think you are infested with Botflies.” The nurse turned her head and muttered, “Oh, that is gross.” The doctor then asked if I would mind if some of his med students took a look at my sores. In a confused state I said no and in came three first year med students. “Oh dude that’s bad.” The first one said. “Duuuude!” Said the second. The last one asked, “Dude can I smell one?” “No.” I replied in disgust. The doctor sensing my agitation quickly ushered them out.

The doctor returned and prescribed fatty bacon and tweezers as my only remedy other than surgery and sent me on my way. I returned home with a batch of bacon in hand and recruited a neighbor kid to help me extract the Botflies. I smothered the sores with bacon and waited. It wasn’t long before the insects began backing out and burrowing into the bacon. I would then remove the bacon and Albert (the neighbor kid) would quickly grab it with the tweezers and pull it out. This was a painful process but it worked beautifully except for the one Botfly Albert accidently dropped and which my dog intentionally ate – only to violently vomit back up later. The next day my doctor told me to be careful on my trips and that the chances were slim an infestation of this sort would ever happen again.

But it did happen again, several months later – the day my girlfriend broke up with me.

I pulled out of my driveway in a doleful state of mind – ( I probably should not have been driving) not believing it was happening again. I headed to the Piggly Wiggly in search of the purest batch of lard I could find. My spirits were squashed, due to the return of the Botflies and to top it off my girlfriend had just broke my heart. I simply could not believe it. “What the hell did I do to deserve this?” I questioned myself as I careened down the road. I called my girlfriend back (sympathy searching) and told her I had the Botflies again. She told me I was sick and to never call her again. She hung up on me just as I reached the grocery store.

As I reached for a slab of pork that was approximately 99.9% fat the meat manager stopped me. “Son, that bacon doesn’t look very good – we have some over here that is much more lean and less expensive.” Embarrassed but absolutely frustrated I replied, “Do you see these pus-generating boils on my arms? Do you have any idea what they are? No, I didn’t think so. I have a case of the f—in’ Botflies.” “That’s sick,” he replied and left to go get security. I quickly paid for my bacon and left.

I got home and located the tweezers – then called Albert (the neighbor kids call him Al), and told him to come over at once. I opened the door and Albert took one look at me and said through his gasps (he must of ran up my eight steps and was grossly out of breath), “You’ve got the f—in’ Botflies again don’t you?” I nodded and we immediately went to work. Albert had quick hands for his age (12) and size (200 lbs). Albert had told me that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up and that he didn’t mind extracting Botflies from my flesh. He thought of it as surgery. By the time the last Botfly was removed Albert was weak, sweaty and hungry.

We retired to my deck and with the help of four glasses of lemonade and two frozen burritos Albert was successfully nourished back to health. “Are you O.K.?” I asked. “Yeah I’m fine – that was cool.” He said with a huge smile on his face.

Nowadays I live in fear and am not well at all. My girlfriend never did invite me back into her life and I just know the Botflies will return one day – it’s just a matter of time since I still visit Costa Rica on occasion (I can’t help it – I love my work). Stanley got fragged by some hot lava in Costa Rica and refuses to return citing hot lava and Botflies as reasons. My dog has been acting like a Botfly and is constantly trying to burrow himself inside people. Albert stops by once in a while just to see if I’m alright and if the Botflies have returned. In a weird way I think he would like to get a case of the Botflies but he won’t admit it. He says, “Hell no,” when I ask him.

 

Originally published:
Issue Fourteen
October 2001

 


Botfly: common name for several families of hairy flies whose larvae live as parasites within the bodies of mammals. The horse botfly secretes an irritating substance that is used to attach its eggs to the body hairs of a horse, mule, or donkey. When the animal licks off the irritant, the larvae are carried into the host’s mouth and later migrate to the stomach. They attach themselves to the lining, where they feed until ready to pupate, and then drop to the ground with the feces. The larvae, which may cause serious damage to the digestive tract and weaken the animal, can be eliminated by a veterinarian. Sheep botflies lay their eggs in the nostrils of the host without alighting. The larvae work their way up into the head cavities causing fits of vertigo known as blind staggers; failure to eat because of irritability may result in death. Old World species of this family attack camels, elephants, horses, mules, donkeys, and deer. The warble flies, also called heel flies, or bomb flies, parasitize cattle and other animals. The larvae, called cattle grubs or cattle maggots, penetrate the skin of the host immediately after hatching; they migrate through the flesh, causing irritability, loss of weight, and decreased milk production, and then settle under the skin of the back, producing cysts, or warbles. Breathing holes made in the warbles by the larvae damage the hide. A species of human botfly found in Central and South America attaches its eggs to a bloodsucking mosquito that it captures and then releases. When the mosquito comes in contact with humans or other warm-blooded animals, the fly eggs hatch and the larvae fasten to the mammal’s skin. The larvae bore into muscle tissue; infestation is called myiasis. For control methods, see bulletins of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The botflies are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Diptera. Horse botflies are classified in the family Gasterophilidae; sheep botflies and warble flies are classified in the family Oestridae; the human botfly is classified in the family Cuterebridae. See insect.

(from: The Columbia Encyclopedia. Sixth Edition. 2001)

 

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