Botfly maggot removed from head -- the video

Video of a woman named Vanessa with a botfly maggot in her scalp. Vanessa got it when she went to Belize. She was planning to go to the doctor to have it removed, but she couldn't stand feeling it and hearing it crawl around under her skin, so she asked her boyfriend (or husband?) to remove it. He wasn't able to get it out (using a bottle full of smoke) so later that day she went to the doctor, but the doctor wasn't able to remove it, either. However, the doctor put a piece of tape over the hole, which cut off the maggot's air supply. Several hours after Vanessa got home, the maggot tried crawling out of the hole, and that's when her friend was able to pull it out.

Yes, it's gross, but it is also a very well made and informative short video. (via Bits & Pieces)



  1. I really, really didn’t want to watch that, but I couldn’t stop myself.

    Unicorn chaser, please.


  2. I watched it. I got slightly nauseous at how big that maggot was after they pulled it out. Unicorn chaser please?

  3. I watched it.

    Not the end of the world, but not to be done while eating. I am now examining every lump on my head.

    If unicorn chasers didn’t already exist, this item would necessitate their creation.

  4. In some places the maggot is removed by holding a piece of fat/bacon over the hole. The maggot, then, is equally asfixiated, and eats its way out, through the fat. Equally gross!!!

  5. So how does this play into the current health care debate? Which procedure would be covered/not covered? Recommended by the Expert panel?

    Who would get compensated for the procedure?

    More open source medicine, I say!

  6. Vanessa and her guy are my heroes; I probably wouldn’t have had the presence of mind to make an educational video, much less one this good.

  7. So this is educational and all, but it left out some key information:


  8. When my friend Sherman had a bot fly in his arm, he’d give it a squeeze and the larvae would stick its head out and gnash its tiny chelicerae at us in rage.

    Not your average party trick, but one that never failed to excite a reaction.

    If you think human bot flies are disgusting, you probably don’t want to know about Oestrus ovis, the sheep bot fly.

  9. I’m reminded of an icy, frozen metal pole. Licking it would be a stupid idea. You know exactly what’s going to end up happening. You know it will be bad. But you do it anyway.

    Aaaaauuuuaaghhrhaagh. Why did I lick the pole?

  10. When I first saw this headline, I was expecting some kind of story about scientists making a cybernetic headless insect.

    I still wish that’s what it had turned out to be about.

  11. The piece of tape was smart. I had a biology teacher who had several botfly larvae under the skin of his arm. Being a biologist, he let them stay there for a while. When he finally wanted them to come out, he put a piece of Pillsbury dough on his arm. This cut off the air supply, much like the tape.

    I’ve heard a piece of bacon also works. In both cases, the oils make your skin air-tight.

  12. One can only admire her sangfroid. I wish her friend had been wearing gloves for better sterility (though, geez, would it be any more “dirty” than the botfly itself?) but beyond that, I’m in awe.

  13. Note to self:
    Don’t go to Belize.

    Note to BoingBoing:
    GROSS! Could you have found a less disturbing screen shot, maybe? I just got back from lunch!!! BLEARGH!!!

    I won’t watch this, but thanks for the information…if I ever get a botfly maggot in my head, I’ll be sure to consult it.

    Now I’m off to barf!

  14. I was the doctor for an archeological expedition in the Maya Mtns in Belize for a while. A lot of people, both locals and gringos, got these in the rainforest. The locals call them beefworms.

    It’s true that American medicine has no clue as what to do with these little beasts. See, they have little hairs that dig in to the sides of their lair (on you, of course), so they either have to come out voluntarily or be killed first to get them out. The tape trick works ok, as does vaseline or something else occlusive, but they usually don’t come out on their own, you usually have to wait till they die and then pop them out – it usually takes a day at least, while the person gets to enjoy that festive wriggling sensation. One textbook I looked at said to just remove them surgically (!)

    The local lore, however, is much better. All of our guides/workers were local Maya. Our chief guide was also a part-time shaman and healer when he wasn’t busy farming or making some extra cash working for us during the archeology season. The way they do it is to smoke a cigarette, blowing the smoke into their cupped palm. Then, they use a little twig to gather all the tar/nic together into a little ball, and cover the beef worm’s breathing hole with it. The maggot goes back to the big egg in the sky within about 5 minutes, and you can just pop him out easily. I guess it speaks to the toxicity of nicotine.

    There was one American guy who got so many (like 20 during the course of a couple months) that he got the nickname of “The Host”. He also got malaria, but that’s another story. We used to sit around the campfire after dinner watching Pedro pop beefworms out The Host for our nightly entertainment. You definitely wanted to wait till after dinner!

    I wanted to get one so I could bring it home to wow my doctor friends, but I never did.

  15. Wow, Jaypee – that’s totally revolting.

    …and a little encouraging? The fact that a little beer and a scalpel can be effectively used by shrieking, camera-wielding loons (making convincing vomit noises) – all to effectively remove a gross and probably serious cyst.

    I gotta say: home surgery never looked so manageable. Could this be a new theme for Makezine?

  16. lol @ #15, nice Boosh reference.

    Come on, guys, this was gross in a satisfying way. (I’m not even sure what that means, but it was.)

  17. #32 – Thanks for the juicy Mayan share

    I wonder if they could breed these for use in treatment of small tumors. Like how I use a tapeworm (“Lil’Wig”) to stay thin.

  18. despite reading boingboing and its comments on a regular basis, i have never commented until now, simply to say this: unicorn chaser, *please*.

  19. I keep hoping you will post something like a unicorn chaser or another informative but slightly less squishy post, because every time I check Boing Boing, I see this picture mid-video. And I just ate lunch.

  20. it’s amazing how many people watch this and decide they want to just stay home for the rest of their lives. folks, relax! there’s a big world out there and it’s okay to get maggots in your head. these videos should make you realize what normal life is to the rest of the world. we’re so squeamish and sheltered we think we can’t deal with the smallest thing- you think a burrowed maggot is gross? let me take you to India, Africa, or anywhere in South America for more fun discoveries.

    you can either a) hide behind your computer for the rest of your life or b) get out of your comfort zone and live a little. #32 has the right idea!

    1. there’s a big world out there and it’s okay to get maggots in your head.

      Growing up in New England, I was always coming home with ticks or leeches attached to me. I think that it has more to do with going outside than with going to other countries.

  21. I dislike mosquitoes more than just about anything else on the planet. I wish they would all vanish. This is just another fine example of why.

  22. Avram@27

    This is what happens when nanotechnology goes wrong. Botfly 2.0 will be tweezer proof.

    I would like to join the throng of posters who had also heard the bacon/bacon fat story. Which is really one of the healthiest uses of bacon known to man.

  23. this may look gross, but at least you won’t get lyme disease like you might from your common north american tick…

  24. Actually, why doesn’t BB have a unicorn button at the bottom of the page a la BBG and Offworld? Unicorns and cleansing sparkles at the click of a mouse, that’s what we need more of.

  25. Amazing. She saved it in a little jar of alcohol. She is some kind of gross/nerdy superhero. What an awesome dinner party prop: ‘Hey guys, let me show you what I bought back from Belize…’

  26. Oh…………. oh god……………. oh………. please kill me………….. if the next post is not a frickin’ unicorn riding a pegasus sliding down a rainbow made of Pixie Sticks and bringing giant bags of cheer and joy and sparkles and moonbeams to all the little boys and girls of the world while the discarded toys of my childhood dance in the background and sing about how easy it is to recapture the care-free days of my youth… I just don’t know WHAT I’m going to do.

  27. @ 32: that story was badass :D loved ‘The Host’ nickname bit.

    I also enjoyed the video boingboing, it was gross and interesting and surprisingly informative.

    To all those requesting unicorn chasers: get a grip.

  28. Mosquitoes are a vital part of the food chain. Without them, the things that thrive off of eating them disappear, and then the things that eat them go too and then suddenly Soylent Green(tm) is the only thing left to sustain us. What we need is a plague of frogs to eat them. Too many frogs have been disappearing because of their ability to absorb things through their skin, picking up toxins we’ve been pumping into the environment. They are the canaries in our collective coal mine. If you think nature is scary now, just wait until the inevitable backlash of our ignorant selfish ways.


    No! -Not the bore worms!

  29. Here’s my botfly story:

    I’ve been to Belize several times, and had never had a problem with botflys. I had heard of them, but sort of dismissed them as an urban legend too gross to be real. Then, on one of my trips to Belize, I stayed at Francis Ford Coppola’s Blancaneaux resort. It was supposed to be ritzy – it was certainly spendy.

    After getting out of the puddlejumper and being escorted to Blancaneaux’s main lodge, I got a rum drink and sat on the deck checking out the surroundings. There were lots of mosquitoes and other biting insects, but hell, what do you expect in the rainforest, right? After a while, I happened to glance at my forearm and noticed that it seemed to have suddenly developed a whole bunch of new freckles. When I brushed my hand against my forearm, the “freckles” flew off, and left me with numerous bleeding bites. So I got a couple of bites. Not cool, but not a huge deal, I thought.

    Noticing my confusion and apparent lack of alarm, another guest politely explained that the dots on my arm had been botflys, and the bleeding spots were where the flys had LAID EGGS IN ME. My mild alarm escalated to totally horrified disgust. I rushed to my room to scrub my wounds and douse them with alcohol. Unfortunately, there were plenty of biting, stinging things in my room. Oh yeah, and tiny nasty leeches in the waterfall near the resort. But, on the plus side, I am fortunate that no botfly maggots grew in me.

  30. I thought my browser’s Flashblock was only good for killing ads. Sure glad I had it working when I visited BB today, and this was the first item.

  31. #32
    Good story.
    I will probably wince a little the next few times I hear the phrase “excellent host”.

    I think Cory could make a mint by offering BoingBoing Prime, subscribe now to enjoy BB with the “Unicorn on Demand” feature.

  32. You guys are a bunch of pussies. That was beautiful! Only as scary as removing a splinter, and way more captivating. I love it!

  33. That was AWESOME. I’m glad BB posted it.

    Also, the footage speaks to the strength of the relationship, which is the truly wonderful thing here. Nothing says “I love you” like removing parasites from your partner’s living tissue. Nothing.

  34. Holy smokes. The SIZE of that thing is tremendous! This is by far the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen on Boing Boing. Yet, informative! :)

  35. I should have known someone would roll out with the “but mosquitoes are necessary to our ecosystem” nonsense. Annoying insects I can deal with, I’ll put up with a lot and I make allowances for the fact that a lot of things I don’t like in life are necessary. Really, though, I can’t think of one good use for mosquitoes, and to a lesser extent ticks (I have several scars from the things), besides as a check on human population. My only consolation for the fact that they are still here is that their disappearance would more than likely cause their niche to be filled with something worse.

  36. That was great!!! Yeah, it’s rather gross but Vanessa is so awesome for being both curious and informative in her misfortune. I love how she even preserved the larva in alcohol! What a geek! :D

    I think the woman being so cool and creative about it is worth its weight in unicorns…

  37. I concur with #57, that was awesome. I’m not scared, I’ve seen my children born and my brother’s compound fracture, and squirrels shredded by cars, and I have this recurring dream of a big zit that just loves to be popped.

    I wish Vanessa and her friend all the best, what a great team!

  38. In his book “Arctic Crossing” Jonathan Waterman describes hunting caribou with an Inuit. The first thing the hunter did when he came up to the body of a caribou he had just shot was to check it over for the marshmallow-sized scabs that form around fly larvae. He would then break them off and pop them in his mouth. “Like mushroom, Kabloona!”, he would say. Waterman says that was the only food offered to him by the Inuit that he never ate.

    A friend of mine in college returned from Peru with a bot fly in his neck. He thought for the longest time it was a spider bite and so treated it with topicals and lots of rubbing and scratching. The thing came to a head during a hot shower in the gym and out popped the larvae. He had it in a ziploc for awhile to show everyone. nutty.

    All in all, this is not as bad to imagine as that tiny fish with the spiny gills that swims up your urethra.

  39. Phikus wins (and I agree with #57, too. Talk about duty above and beyond.)

    For those who aren’t grossed out enough yet, lemme just tell you what I thought of when she dropped the li’l beastie in the alcohol to save it:

    Now she and her mate can do a few shots and… eat the worm!

    Yes, yes, I’m so sorry. I’m sorrier than you are, in fact.

  40. I didn’t watch the video, as the still image was enough for me, thank you very much. Though I can’t imagine it’s any worse than the picture I got when I looked up “flystrike” on Wikipedia a few days ago. I didn’t know what it was, you see, and getting treated to a graphic series of images of the larva removal process from a human eye was quite literally the stuff of nightmares.

    I do love how posts like these bring out the condescending “if this creeps you out, you obviously only intend to sit huddled behind your computers forever, you sheltered babies” comments.

  41. remember how you used to harvest night crawlers for fishing bait with a hand crank generator and rod electrodes pounded into the ground?

  42. there used to be a man on my dad’s home town from whom the full grown flies flown out of him.
    Also a Japanese friend of a friend of mine, did on purpose let the grow in his belly for his entomology thesis.

  43. definitely just searched for more of the same on youtube… these little suckers are disgusting if i ever get one i want the appendage amputated, especially if it is my head :X

  44. OK, so I’ve got a strong stomach and get to see grossly biological things every day at work, but that made my morning.

    Anyone else wondering if cigarette smoke works and a piece of sticky tape suffocates it too, whether covering it with a nicotine patch would do the job faster? Anyone out there fancy being subjects in my randomised control trial?

  45. What if the Unicorn Chaser gets a botfly? Ever think about that before you all start crying for it like a fairy godmother.

    It’s alright tho, cos Robocop would shoot down any skeeters than came close.

  46. Brings back fond memories of graduate work studying bats in Kruger Park in South Africa! Botflies would lay eggs on laundry drying on the line. If you didn’t take the effort to heat up the big metal iron on the fire and iron your clothes, you took your chances. One student got three larvae under the skin across his belly. He first discovered them when he noticed that his ‘mosquitoe bites’ moved when he scratched them. The larvae were too small to remove at first, so he got to carry his “babies” around for a few days before we were able to use vaseline to get them to back out far enough to remove. They then got pickled in alcohol and added to the expedition samples.

  47. If that thing was on me, I’d try to pop it like the thousands of zits that dared tread on my face. Even if it tried to grip it’d be only making it harder for itself to break free from the maniacal madman of myself.

  48. I know I’m in the minority here, but I didn’t find this to be revolting at all. I’ve seen a few botfly removal videos before, and the moment it plops out gives me a strange sense of vicarious satisfaction.

  49. That was one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen. God I wish I hadn’t watched that.

    Now get Italian horror director to make a movie where people’s faces fall off after being infected with thousands of these, in the eyeballs, mouth, anus, everything, and show it all up close, and I think THAT would be the most disgusting horror movie ever made or possible to be made.

    Or combine this with tubgirl, goatse man, or any other remix. Or that scene in Cabin Fever with the guy going down on the girl.

    The possibilities of soul raping images created with this meme are endless. And now I won’t sleep for a week having thought of that stuff!

  50. I had to do this for a chihuahua once and it was the most disgusting event of my life. There’s no way to convey the horror or realizing that yes, something is moving around in there.

  51. we took one out of my rabbit once, only afterwards learning that, if damaged, the larva will release a powerful neurotoxin. I seem to find lots of small animals with these things in them. 2 cats, a rabbit and a robin, anyway. … all up here in Canada, by the way….

  52. Just in case anybody else has a botfly larva to deal with, let me briefly explain what went wrong with the bottle and smoke:

    It is NOT about smoke … it is about vacuum!

    Just like vacuum massage, the aim is to use a fire inside the bottle to use up the oxygen and thus create a vacuum.

    The bottle needs to have a good seal, so you’ll need to shave some hair if it’s on your head …

  53. Christovir, I’m with you. It doesn’t gross me out, and I also got that vicarious satisfaction you described when the maggot was finally removed.
    That was an amazing video. Makes me eager to research other rare, disgusting non-lethal parasites. COOL!!

  54. @40- I’m going to vote for hide behind the computer.
    To me, the entire point of civilization is to _avoid_ having to deal with stuff like parasitic larvae (and starvation, heat, cold, and the other joys of the state of nature).

  55. I read some of these comments before watching the video, so I expected to be completely grossed out by it. Instead I was delighted.

    This truly is a wonderful thing. The fact that someone responded to having a parasitic worm growing in their scalp by making such a neat and informative video makes me proud to be human. I hope I would have the same attitude if such a thing should ever happen to me.

  56. Best moment – and she’s a woman after my own heart – is, “Do you see it in the frame?”

    You Betcha we do!

  57. At the Ohio State Fair we eat those things on a stick, deep fat fried.

    Big deal. I once had a dachshund living under my scalp for 3 months. I finally enticed him out my ear by showering in beef gravy. When he was out, we found all kinds of those botfly maggons under *his* skin.

    Sticks. Oil. Fire. Powdered sugar. Good times.

  58. Very, very cool.

    A thread likes this reminds me just how outrageously squeamish western society as become. For people in the tropics this is just life.

    … and then there’s my 14 year old niece who spent last weekend wacking the heads off 50 chickens. Farm life has left her properly unsqueamish and determined to become a surgeon.

  59. Anon@~80: Don’t forget the Trobbing Gristle soundtrack to that mashup.

    Siliconsunset@~60: Glad I could help. XD

  60. You’re right, this was an exceptionally well-made video. Most of the botfly extraction vids online are of poor quality. I’ll definitely be showing this one to my parasitology students.

    Also- you think these things are bad? Look up screw worms.

  61. Excellent video.
    As a son of entomologists in the tropic (!) it didn’t shock me at all. Sure, we have dealt with bot flies before. Huge ones on the family dog, and there’s nothing to bring a family together like helping your pet to get rid of fat, squirming larvae. And the sound they make when they pop out, so satisfying…

    Anyway, I understand why it would disgust most people, but come on, there are far worse things.

  62. Post #15 : THANK YOU SO MUCH ^_^ That made me feel better.

    Yes I know western society is squeamish but I can handle dead bodies in real life better than seeing that come out of a person. But yes, how does one prevent this from happening? (besides not going to Belize).. The thing that is the most disgusting is the puss.

    Also: watching this RIGHT before going to bed didn’t help either.

  63. C’mon, guys, Belize is not to blame. You can pick up botfly larvae anywhere botflies & mosquitos live in harmony.

    Brave lady! I like.

    Not knowing that “Nature Break” is the name of her organization/website, when I saw “Nature Break” scrawled onto the screen at .31, I assumed that someone had to use the bathroom while the tripod was being located. (:-P

  64. Can’t. Turn. Away. Mes. Mer. Ized. Ugh.
    Thank God I have my own wall of fluff… c’mere, kitty…

  65. I’ve heard that the way to get rid of a botfly in your scalp is to wear a slab of raw meat on your head for a day or so. The maggot is tricked into thinking there’s more head above it, and it crawls out of your scalp and into the meat.

  66. Don’t be hatin’ on Belize. According to Wikipedia, botflies live in the following countries:

    Adelaide – Elizabeth, Davoren Park
    Canada – Northern British Columbia, Southern Ontario
    Costa Rica
    Dominican Republic
    The coast of Ecuador
    New Zealand
    Several small countries in Africa.
    United States

  67. @ #112: NZ? I’ve never heard mention of botflies over here, but IANAP.

    Is anyone else reminded of the scene from the Matrix where Trinity uses that big endoscope thingy to get the bug out of Neo? We need some of those methinks.

  68. I watched it and that was horrible enough for me. I’m sorry you had to go through that thing eating your head. I have a terrible fear of maggots. I don’t know why. Thanks for making that so interesting I couldn’t stop watching.

  69. We used to have a similar problem with some semi-feral kittens that lived in our barn. The trick is to pour peroxide in the hole. It burns like crap, but it clears out puss and brings the larva right up to the air hole for a long time. Then, you just pluck it up with tweasers.

  70. Been there, done that. I squeezed it out myself, but another method is to tape a bottle cap filled with vaseline over the hole.

  71. Not the first time i’ve seen footage of a Botfly Larvae removal but it is the first time i’ve seen such a large amount of larvae faeces come out of the wound afterwards. Anyway good informative video, the consequences of ignoring or not noticing it can be very bad so at least people will know after seeing this.

  72. you’re were really brave and calm about the situation because if that were me, i would have been freaking out!

  73. I believe the smoking-out technique involves cigarette smoke. The tobacco should cause more irritation to the larva. Not sure. Next squirrel I find that has a botfly, I’ll try it.

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