Friday bugs, in which I get a fly in the head

August 7, 2009 • 6:54 am

Richard Dawkins’s webmaster has dug up a link to an show I did last December on NPR with Robert Krulwich.  It tells the story of how I got a botfly larva in my head when I was a grad student visiting Costa Rica, and how I reared it out. (And yes, I know that a botfly isn’t a true bug!)

The direct link is here. There’s an interview with Cornell entomologist Tom Eisner in the last five minutes. He talks about dreaming of being an insect.

22 thoughts on “Friday bugs, in which I get a fly in the head

  1. As Pat Benatar would sing:

    Why’d ya have to do it Evil Genius?
    Was it just a fly in your mind?

  2. I know what my mom would’ve done, extract the bastard. She was real aggressive about the boils I’d get when I was seven, and I doubt a botfly larva would’ve intimidated her. Kill it, remove it, and apply the iodine to the wound.

    She did get her nurses training before antibiotics, so her handling of infections and potential infections was different, and very aggressive. An over reliance on antibiotics as made wimps of the medical fraternity where infections are concerned.

    1. A live, sterile larva in the scalp is infinitely preferable to a dead, festering larva. You’d get used to it 🙂

      1. My point, since you don’t seem capable of comprehending it the first time, is that intervening for removal is a surgical procedure with attendant risks of infection. There was another option of strapping a piece of raw meat over the larva which would cause it to migrate into the meat – if you didn’t suffocate it in the process. That might be a lot easier if the larva was in, say, your arm, vs. your scalp, not to mention the flies of all sorts that THAT would attract, in any event. The MEDICAL opinion was that letting the larva pupate (=make its exit) was deemed the cleanest solution.
        Thimblewits, such as you have demonstrated yourself to be, who jump into an argument without understanding any of the background, are the bane of the internet.

  3. Jerry Coyne and his movement, the New Maggot Treats are putting people off science with their outspoken grossness.

    1. Hardly. Look at the sudden popularity of pursuing a career in forensic science/medicine after the spate of TV shows with that theme. People (excepting you, apparently) are fascinated with things like estimating the time of death from the state of decay on discovery. People who take the time to read Tropical Nature learn about the life cycle of the botfly, which is pretty fascinating in itself. And some of those with a broader world view than you display may stop to consider the vast numbers of people who live in the range of the botfly who carry on despite its presence. Some further may pause to wonder what enables the botfly to occupy its pouch without causing an infection (I’ll bet on powerful peptide antibiotics secreted by the botfly) or even possibly what enables the larva to exist there without triggering an immune reaction (perhaps some immunosuppressant compounds). Either of the two above could be the basis of interesting research which just might benefit medicine. For antibiotic peptides, the magainins from frog skin provide an example. This is a fantastic example of commensalism.

      Further, I’d sure as hell rather have a botfly larva in my scalp than contract malaria or many of the myriad other tropical parasites.

      Next wiseass comment?

  4. Great radiolab! I had missed it.

    But gross, Jerry– GROSS!

    (And what’s wrong with me? –I actually felt bad to learn the pupa had died.)

  5. I didn’t realize that nasty fly was native to Costa Rica. I can’t wait for Monday when I can view the video. 🙂 I want to know how to coax it out rather than slowly asphyxiating it and trying to extract the remains.

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