As I posted previously, during a grad-school trip to Costa Rica I was parasitized by a botfly larva, which took up residence in my head before burrowing out several months later. It was a mentally and physically transformative experience: I one step down on the food chain, and my own flesh converted into that of a fly!
Today’s New York Times has a piece about (and a video by) by filmmaker Vanessa Serrao, who picked up one of these beasts — also in her head — on a trip to Belize.
About a month after her trip, Ms. Serrao, 33, noticed a raised and oozing bump on her head. A doctor offered antibiotics because it appeared to be an infected bite. But as she was leaving the doctor’s office, Ms. Serrao mentioned that she had recently been in Central America. She had heard stories about botflies — Dermatobia hominis — a hairy fly that uses a mosquito as a vector to deposit larvae under human skin.
“Then the doctor looked with a magnifying glass,” Ms. Serrao said. “And she said, ‘Yes, there is something living in there.’ ”
Here’s her video, which perfectly displays the same combination of fascination and horror that I felt while harboring my own little grub. Her urge to have the thing removed mystifies me, though: it’s much safer to let it come out on its own, and of course a natural exit makes for a better ending!
WARNING: not for the squeamish.
If you haven’t listened to the piece that Robert Krulwich did for RadioLab on my botfly, a piece that with judicious editing turned into a hilarious tale, you can listen to it here. And, in the end, I guess I badly needed to suffer that pain!