WATCH: Worst Maggots in wounds coming out after removed and treatment

8 Facts About Maggots


Flies generally lay their eggs on things that will make a good food source for their offspring, so when maggot larvae hatch they can get to work feasting right away. Over several days they will eat, poop, grow, and sometimes even molt. At that point, the typically creamy colored maggots will pupate, meaning they’ll squirm off to a reasonably dry place, stop moving, and grow a dark shell.

Inside that shell, they transform from a mushy mass to a fully formed insect. In about 10 days, maggots will emerge from the pupal casing as hairy, bug-eyed flies and scamper off to mate, starting the cycle all over again.


They have no legs, but their front ends have mouths with hooks that help them grab at decaying flesh and other delectable food items. Despite their endless appetites, however, they lack a sophisticated digestive system. So as they move through a corpse or rotten food, they secrete fluid containing digestive enzymes to help them dissolve their foul meal.


In 2013, researchers from the University of Lausanne published a study reporting that fruit fly maggots—normally vegetarians—actually have cannibalistic tendencies. Once a maggot is injured, it’s fair game for a feeding frenzy. Why would a normally vegetarian species do such a thing? Scientists don’t have clear answers yet, but their research studying maggots could help answer basic evolutionary questions about cannibalism.


Maggots feed in massive groups, and all those digestive juices and movement can really heat up their immediate environment. They deal with this by retreating to cooler spots when the temperature becomes uncomfortably hot. But research suggests that if you put enough maggots in a confined space and wait, eventually the temperature will rise to the point that they’ll start to die—somewhere between 104F° and 122F°.

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Maggots aren’t the most sophisticated creatures, but research shows some have the ability to smell particular aromas, as well as react to light. Fruit fly maggots can’t see distinct images, but they have eye-like photoreceptors known as Bolwig organs that help them detect brightness. More recently, researchers discovered they also have light-sensing cells along their body. Both help to protect them from too much light, which can be deadly for young fruit flies.

Meanwhile, other researchers have focused on studying maggots’ sense of smell. According to Matthew Cobb, a biologist at the University of Manchester in the UK, maggots have just 21 odor-receptor neurons, compared to 1300 in flies and millions in more complex animals like rats and people. In spite of this, maggots are still able to detect a surprising number of odors.


Science has come a long way since the 18th century. Then, people commonly accepted the theory of spontaneous generation—a belief that life could develop from non-living things, despite the fact that some two centuries earlier, in 1668, Italian physician Francesco Redi conducted a low-tech but effective experiment that showed otherwise. Redi demonstrated that maggots turned into flies, which laid eggs that turned into more maggots. He observed that maggots only appeared on meat that’s left uncovered, allowing flies to lay eggs that later hatched.


We all know from our favorite TV shows that establishing the time of death is a fundamental part of a murder investigation. The time of colonization—as in, the moment at which flies arrive and begin feeding and laying eggs in decomposing flesh—helps forensic entomologists more accurately assess time of death.

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It only takes a few minutes for some species of flies to begin arriving and laying eggs. So by noting the various species present and studying the age of the maggot offspring squirming around in a body, it’s possible to determine the minimum amount of timethat’s passed since death.


Surprisingly, some species are quite effective at helping wounds heal and inhibiting infection. So-called maggot debridement therapy isn’t a new technology; it’s been observed for centuries that soldiers injured in battle often healed faster when their wounds were infested with maggots. Orthopedic surgeon William Baer, who had observed this himself in World War I, presented a groundbreaking study in 1929 showing that children with osteomyelitis (bone infection) and soft tissue wounds could be successfully treated with maggot therapy.

During the subsequent decade, thousands of doctors used maggot therapy. But the rise of antibiotics, coupled with challenges in obtaining medical-grade maggots grown in completely sterile conditions, saw the treatment dwindle. That’s changing, however, with the rise of antibiotic resistance and an increased prevalence of chronic diseases like diabetes that lead to non-healing wounds. Today, maggot therapy is making somewhat of a comeback.

WATCH: Worst Maggots in wounds coming out after removed and treatment

Many people would say maggots are not one of the cutest creatures on earth. Some people may even use the word “maggot” as a derogatory term. However people may describe them, we benefit a lot from these little creatures. From disinfecting wounds to identifying corpses, maggots have an interesting array of useful skills. Perhaps by reading this blog, you may change your perspective on these little creatures and start to appreciate them more.

Maggots for Healing Practices:
Maggots have helped heal wounds for centuries. During the World War I era, American surgeon William Baer observed that soldiers with maggot-infested wounds usually did not experience the expected infection. Since then, Baer started to use live maggots to treat bone and soft tissue infections. The result have been remarkable. However, in the 1930s, the maggot therapy began to decline due to its nature and people’s perception of it. Nowadays, the efficacy and safety of maggot therapy has been revitalized. Moreover, advanced technology and materials manufacturing have made maggot therapy commonplace. Thus, the effectiveness of Maggot Debridement Therapy has been widely acknowledged and many therapists consider it the most practical way to specifically treat knotty infections and wounds.

Maggots in Forensic Entomology:
Forensic entomology is the study of insects in relation to criminal investigations. For centuries, people from all over the world have used insects to help solve murder mysteries, find corpses, and identify victims. Blowflies are one of the most common insects found in corpses. They are also one of the fastest to arrive as well, for they can find a dead body within hours due to their senses. Blowflies often lay their eggs into the corpse, and these maggots are mainly responsible for the decay in body composition. Maggots can provide much information about the corpse. They are normally found on body orifices such as the eyes, ears, and anus. However, if they were located elsewhere, it could mean that the corpse had serious injuries such as open wounds at that location before death.

Although most of us find flies to be pesky creatures, we all benefit from the maggots. They help heal and disinfect wounds, provide valuable forensics data such as time of death and type of injuries, and can make cheese! So next time you encounter a conversation about maggots, you’ll look at them with new lenses.

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