Botflies aren’t the nicest of creatures. Although they are technically harmless, they can cause some problems and are often associated with disgusting behaviors.
If you’ve ever seen Alien, you might associate botflies with that movie – they tend to burrow into their host until they’re ready to leave and will eventually break out of their host through their skin or other orifice like the ear.
Their process of burrowing doesn’t usually harm their host, whether that’s a horse or a human but can cause an area of swelling which can be unpleasant and itchy, which we’d all like to avoid if possible.
So, how would you know if there’s a botfly around? What do they look like exactly?
This guide will help you identify a botfly along with providing some helpful information surrounding the creature which can help you in the future!
What Is A Botfly Exactly?
A botfly is a type of fly that has many different varieties, each of which have their own name linking to their behaviors.
Their name in the scientific community is Dermatobia Hominis and they’re normally located in South and Central America.
Having said that, if you think you’ve spotted one or heard of one in the United States, you’d be right too, but they only frequent Southern California normally.
There have been reports of other places in the States, but this is usually down to people returning from vacation in South America.
The variety of botflies are named, as we say, by their behavior. So, the botfly that targets cows for example is called Hypoderma Bovis, but there are varieties of botfly that target goats and sheep or donkeys and horses.
Botflies have a strange relationship with mosquitos, in which the female botfly will seek out a mosquito after mating and lay her eggs on them. Once that has been completed, the female botfly will fly away and end their brief life.
When the mosquito, who now has eggs on it, bites their chosen host, they create a small hole. This is where the larvae will be able to enter and continue their process – a process that should be harmless to their host.
They’re sometimes mistaken for horseflies, yellow flies or bees due to their image as they appear quite fuzzy or hairy. The way to distinguish between these is that a botfly does not have the capability to bite you.
So, if you’re seeing something that you believe to be a botfly near you but it’s harming you – the chances are, it’s a yellow fly or a bee.
Horseflies also bite but they’re often more easily distinguishable as they’re generally larger than botflies.
Both botflies and horseflies frequent the same areas, places like stables, liveries or other animal pens. Although not a common occurrence, botflies can lay their eggs in the bite holes left by horseflies.
How Exactly Do I Distinguish A Botfly From Other Flying Insects?
Aside from their behaviors like not being able to bite or sting, their imagery is slightly different from other flying insects. They have one wing set and large, hairy heads which can be described as well-rounded or bulbous.
Their color can be described as either black, black with white or a light red which can sometimes appear orange. In terms of size, they’re not very large. Typically, a botfly is about 0.5 to an inch in length.
If you have ever spotted their larvae, you’ll always be able to identify them again. They look spiked with oval shaped lumps that stick to their chosen host.
When they have burrowed into their host, the outside skin looks like a boil because they only live just inside their host’s skin.
Are Botflies Problematic Or Dangerous To Their Hosts?
Botflies, contrary to some beliefs, do not transmit any foreign bodies or diseases unlike things like mosquitos.
After burrowing and their larvae leave their hosts, there are no lasting problems – although you may experience an uncomfortable itch or swelling, if you were the host.
What Do Botflies Feed On?
Actually, nothing – since botflies have no mouths. There is no real need for a botfly to eat due to their short life span, which is around a few days to a week after leaving their host.
Their sole purpose is to reproduce, which is what they do well – and is why they have survived.
If anything, they eat themselves when they shed their skin before the end of their lives.
Should I Get Rid Of Botflies?
Although they won’t be life threatening to you or your animals, they can be uncomfortable and can cause animals like horses some distress.
To get rid of botflies that have already burrowed into the skin, the easiest way to terminate them is to block off their air supply.
When they burrow, they leave a breathing hole which is essential to survive. If you cover that up, they will quickly leave the area for air, where you can pick them off.
You can actually use petroleum jelly to do this, assuming you’re not allergic. This jelly is not noticeable when applied and quickly dispenses of your botflies. It’s wise to use tweezers to pick them up when they leave the skin.
The maggots under the skin will also emerge if the air around them is toxic or unclean, so if you are a smoker or near a fire – sometimes the smoke can cause the maggots to leave the skin to get clearer air, where you can get at them.
To prevent botflies, which is your best bet when it comes to botflies – you should avoid trips to places where they are prevalent and prevent their form of travel. As this is normally using mosquitos, preventing mosquitos is a good idea.
Pesticides will not work after botflies have infested because botflies die too quickly for that to be a viable option. However, you can put pesticide in areas where mosquitoes will frequent like dirty water areas that your animals do not use.
Botflies can be a problem but not a major one – it’s more their carrier, the mosquito, that is the real issue. Preventing mosquitos will in turn, prevent botflies.
However, knowing what they look like will help you to identify what you should do when you see evidence of them – which we hope this guide has been helpful at doing.