The Entomologist Who Grew Botfly Larvae In His Arm, And Filmed It

He noticed the maggot's breathing tube in his arm, and decided to let it grow and film its escape.

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

James Felton

Senior Staff Writer

James is a published author with four pop-history and science books to his name. He specializes in history, strange science, and anything out of the ordinary.

Senior Staff Writer

A botfly larva, on a red background.

Not what you'd ideally want in your arm. Image credit: Chamois huntress/

From the doctor who pumped hydrogen gas into his own anus to save lives, to the surgeon who inserted a catheter into his own heart after fighting a doctor, history is replete with people willing to experiment on themselves in order to advance science and medicine.

When you aren't working in medicine, the self-sacrifice can be less glamorous, as evidenced by one entomologist who became infected with botfly eggs, before allowing the maggots to grow under his skin. 


"I know it sounds weird but I felt an almost father-child relationship with this organism that was growing in my body a few years ago," entomologist Piotr Naskrecki told PBS's NOVA Wonders: What's Living In You?

Naskrecki had been living in Belize, and was constantly being bitten by mosquitoes. He noticed that one of his bites wasn't healing as normal.

"When I looked closely I could see something moving in there, like a thin little straw-like structure that emerges from the wound every now and then to take a gulp gulp of air," he explained.

He realized that the straw-like structure was a breathing tube of a botfly larva. He decided to let the botfly grow, and document its development and eventual escape.


Once a human is infected with botflies – known as myiasis – the larvae feed, embedded in their host's tissue. They remain here for 5-10 weeks, breathing through a hole in the skin, before wriggling their way out of there and falling to the ground.

Naskrecki described the experience as interesting, but with notable downsides.

"It was embarrassing on a few occasions, when both of my arms started bleeding profusely in public; painful at times, to the point of waking me up in the middle of the night; and inconvenient during the last stages of the flies’ development, when I had to tape plastic containers to my arms to make sure that I will not lose the emerging larvae," he wrote on his Vimeo page


Ultimately, he says that he "actually grew to like my little guests", before pondering why it is we respect large predators like lions more than parasites like this one.

"To a bot fly we, humans, are a renewable resource – it is in the bot fly’s best interest that we live a very long life and thus can be 'reused' – hence the minimum amount of suffering that this species causes," he wrote. "To a lion we are nothing more than a one-time meal."


  • tag
  • parasitic infection,

  • parasite,

  • botfly,

  • parasites,

  • entomology,

  • larvae,

  • botflies