What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Subject: Parasitic larvae explode from lizard a la Alien
Location: Gainesville, Fl
August 25, 2013 8:49 am
So my friend found an ailing lizard (Anolis carolinensis) yesterday in north-central Florida. He thought it might die, so he took it with him in some sort of rescue attempt. Anyway, he looks at it an hour later, the lizard was dead, and the small black dot behind the lizard’s front leg had exploded into a gaping hole filled with large wriggling larvae of some sort. It certainly appears as though they were trying to escape after their host had died. He knew I’m into reptiles, so he showed it to me. The lizard was quite familiar, but the parasites less so. They look kind of like maggots to me, but most fly maggots are in dead things, when these were clearly inside the living lizard and killed it.
Signature: lizard guy

Lizard with Maggots

Lizard with Maggots

Dear lizard guy,
We agree that these look like maggots, but we do not know of any flies that parasitize lizards.  We will continue to do some research, but we are posting your letter and photos in the hope that one of our readers can come to our assistance.

Maggots emerge from Lizard

Maggots emerge from Lizard

 

Tagged with →  
What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination
Location: Gainesville, Florida

42 Responses to What Parasitized the Lizard????

  1. They look like they may be larvae of flesh flies, Sarcophagidae. Most sarcophagid larvae feed on dead flesh, but some may parasitise animals. Often they are facultative parasites: the larvae start feeding on necrotic wounds but end up chewing into the rest of the animal.

  2. acruzers says:

    omg – I just happened to google maggots coming out of gecko because I just encountered this same thing at work today. I saw a gecko on top of our file cabinet and grabbed a wad of Kleenex to pick it up. It was stuck to the counter, which grossed me out, and I backed away. When my co-worker approached to scrape it off with a piece of cardboard, it started to move, so I thot maybe it was alive – just shedding its skin (as they do). Upon closer inspection, we saw all of these maggot-looking things come out of the gecko. They were huge – just like the ones in this picture. What the heck?

  3. ddukerules21137 says:

    I discovered a lizard or maybe a gecko in a similar manner to acruzers today. Except the lizard was moving, it appeared to be having a seizure and was on a wall. When knocked off the wall the animal exploded with these exact same large maggots. Terrifying experience. Wtf are they!?!?! The lizard had to have been alive when it was infected. It looked normal on the outside

  4. Hannah says:

    Oh my god, the SAME exact thing happened to me today. Literally the story could have been my own. Saw the ailing lizard, took it in and had a look at it. The difference though is that it had a hole in its side that I looked closely at and I could see the larvae moving around inside of it while the poor lizard was still alive. I could tell he was near death. He took his last little breaths in my hand and I decided to find out what the hell was inside of him. I squeezed near the little hole area and seven of those things came out. I have never seen anything like this before. If it’s worth mentioning my experience was also in Florida.

    R.I.P. lizard. I killed them all in vengeance and I gave you a noble burial. I didn’t know you long but you’ll be missed.

  5. Holly says:

    The very same thing happened to me. I am a painter in jacksonville. We are painting the outside of a building and have encountered several of these poor lizards in the midst of dieing that have maggots “breathing” out of tiny holes in there skin. As a life long residence of florida this is a first for me.

  6. Jason says:

    The fact that Holly has been a long time Florida resident, and this is a first for her, is alarming. Is this something new? Does anyone know what it is? I’ve seen this twice in my yard, lived here less than a year. Freaky stuff!

  7. Zach says:

    An interesting looking anole in the yard (Vero Beach, FL) with splotchy bright green pattern caught my eye, upon closer inspection, I noticed it had a wound with some sort of maggots living in it. The lizard was alive and my gag reflex was triggered. Think I’m going to go Hannah’s route (not so much the squeezing maggots out onto my hand part), R.I.P. lil lizard

  8. Jen says:

    My son has a pet gecko we just found him today with a whole in his side and little maggot things coming in and out of the hike. He’s still alive! I’ve never seen anything like it! At first I thought maybe he got hurt and they ensued but now it does seem like they came from inside out. I just saw him a day or two ago and he had no wounds. Very strange I feel bad that it’s suffering so I am taking him to be put out of his misery. I’m not from Flirida I’m from Pennsylvania

  9. Morgan says:

    thus just happened to me too in NC. Has anyone figured out what the heck the maggots turn in to. It was straight out of an alien movie!

  10. Jacob in AZ says:

    Does no one have an answer for this yet? This just happened to me in Tucson, Arizona.

    Saw a lizard spazzing on the sidewalk, cut a flip and died. I got to looking at the little guy and I could SEE the maggots moving around in him. I kinda squeezed him (I always keep three pair of latex gloves in various pockets because you literally never know when they’ll be handy) and he popped like a balloon, about seven or eight of these disgusting things came out and I killed them all and buried the lizard (mostly in attempt to prevent any remaining larvae from escaping).

    It’s bizarre and concerning because I’m always worried about things like bot flies.

  11. Jonathan says:

    Happened here today in Central Alabama. Small lizard fell out of tree and flopped around a bit. I went to inspect but it didn’t run, though still alive; looked to be shedding, too. I put in a container and 30 minutes later it appeared dead; thought it was just playing dead. 8 hours later I checked on it and it seemed to be moving so I thought it was ok. The movement was actually from 4-5 larvae, identical to picture, that was beginning to come out of it.
    I killed “maggots” and took care of dead lizard. It really is freaky to see and does kind of remind you of Aliens!

  12. Amy says:

    This happened to one of my wild caught anoles this week. At first he looked perfectly healthy then a couple days later he gets splotchy and one side was bulging so I thought he had broken ribs. The next day he was dead and had those same maggots popping out. I’m keeping them in a jar to find out what they are. Will post when I do.

    • bugman says:

      Please submit any images and information using the Ask What’s That Bug? link on our site. Please include the term “Lizard Parasite” in the subject line.

    • Amy says:

      I have wild caught green anoles also, here in South Texas. One of my females had been acting kind of strange; swallowing a lot. One day she looked normal and yesterday she couldn’t walk. It was like her legs on her right side were paralyzed. She had a hole in her side. I knew she was dying and after further inspection of her, 3 of these gross things came out of her. She died shortly after that. I was disgusted and amazed at what could have been living inside her.

  13. Kim says:

    Found a lizard in yard yesterday. It appeared to be shedding. Noticed a hole in its side and thought the cat had gotten it. Put it in a jar and noticed it was moving here and there. Then an hour later noticed it’s back end was turning into mush. This morning it’s dried all up and jar is full of those same larvae as in picture. Great movie theme as this is occurring across the nation. I’m in Texas.

  14. Nico says:

    I’ve seen 4 Green Anole lizards in my backyard in a 3 month period (where I have had a healthy population for years), become ill. Upon closer inspection there is always a small hole on the lizard’s ribcage/side. I watched one for 3 days to see if it would get better but it was in complete agony and I had to sadly euthanize it. I have encountered another one today suffering the same hole in the side. At first I though it may have been some type of bird trying to eat them or enforcing it’s dominance. After this forum I’m beginning to believe it is an insect which is stinging them and laying eggs in them? I live in the coast in Texas and I am very curious as to what is happening to my poor lizards?!!

  15. Nico says:

    I apologize for my incorrect spelling in my last post. I believe I have found out what is happening to us. Check here: http://chipojolab.blogspot.com/2016/07/a-xenomorph-moment-with-anole.html

  16. Nico says:

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but I am 90% sure what’s happening is the lizards are being bitten and infected by FLESH FLYS. The hole is the exit hole from the larvae leaving the lizard. I had no idea that was the cause, and if you do see an Anole with a hole in it’s side it will most likely suffer until it dies. They don’t seem to recover from it. I guess it’s time to invest in bug zappers? Thanks for this forum, it helped clear up an on going mystery.

  17. Caroline says:

    To get the maggots out of the lizard, submerge the wound in water! Just leave the lizards head above the water obviously. The maggots will come out and drown. I just did this to a lizard I found in my backyard that had one in his ribcage. Now the poor thing just has a gaping hole going through him, but at least he’s not being eaten alive anymore…

  18. Bill Nelson says:

    We live in the DFW area of Texas, noticed the same thing on one of our cricket eating friends. As I watched, a maggot-like worm exited the side of the lizard. The lizard was clearly emaciated from what was going on inside it and did die. It’s the only one I’ve seen to date with this malady. We spray the yard regularly for flies, mosquitoes, etc., so I’m not sure what it takes to prevent this. We have a terrific population of squirrels, dove, chickadees, cardinals, etc. I’d hate to think they could suffer the same thing.

    • Niko says:

      Yes this is a serious threat to the poor lizards. I used to have nearly 100 anole lizards my backyard and since the fly epidemic their population has not recovered. I’m fairly positive they are flesh flies. They are certainly some species of fly that needs to be controlled or eradicated completely. Perhaps we should contact a professional to spray or treat the areas.

      • Jaret says:

        What can we do I’m in Dallas tx by lake Lewisville and have watched 2 die today I only have about 5 left
        Had over 20, watch flesh fly larva exit their sides / so sad
        This has been an issue starting this year

  19. Connie says:

    Well, this certainly is gross but I have a somewhat similiar experience. A while back there were a couple feral kittens around my yard. One day I found one dead on my log pile. It seemed to have a hole on its side and tiny, tiny maggots at the hole. I figured it had died of a wound and maggots got to it before I found it. Well, the second little kitten who would never come near me came to me non stop meowing and pawing at me. I fed and watered it and let it be for fear it was sick from something. A while later I went outside and it was on my porch with a huge hole in its side and billions,I mean billions of very fine tiny maggots in the hole. At this point the kitten couldn’t walk and kept meowing constantly and ended up dying pretty quickly afterwards. I was sick. I’m out in the country of Nc, would never have made it to a vet and it was Sunday. I gave the kitty a proper burial after washing all the maggots out but was so sickened I couldn’t sleep well for days wondering what they were and where they came from. Does and none have andnyoneny answers? These maggots were fine thin off white things not much longer than a / mark.

  20. Michelle says:

    Thanks for all if info. My sons were playing in the backyard and found a dead lizard under a toy with a bunch of these same fat maggots. They proceeded to squirt it with water guns for a while before telling me so I’m not sure how many maggots escaped. I’m also grossed out because they were barefoot and stood in the water from the water guns. Oh boys. Does anyone know if humans can be infected with these nasty creatures?!

  21. Stacy says:

    So is a flesh fly the same as sarcophagid fly? My garden anole green lizard died this morning from the exact same parasites in the picture. Between 12 to 20 crawled out, and more non-wriggling were inside her too. Are humans, dogs etc at risk too?? In Atlanta GA btw

    • bugman says:

      Flesh Flies are classified in the family Sarcophidae, and a Sarcophagid Fly is a member of that family, so a Flesh Fly is the same as a Sarcophagid Fly. According to BugGuide: “Larvae: many species are necrophagous, but some feed in mammalian tissues or parasitize other arthropods (bees, cicadas, termites, grasshoppers/locusts, millipedes), earthworms, or snails(4). Adults feed on various sugar-containing materials such as nectar, sap, fruit juices and honeydew.” We suspect Flesh Flies might be drawn to tissue necrosis in a living human or dog.

  22. Could this be from some imported reptile from another country? That is how we got fireants. I just witnessed the same gross scenario with a yard lizard. Someone mentioned those flesh fly larvae also feed on nectar. This happened very near my hummingbird feeder which keeps getting blown down when its windy. Also have had a problem with lots of flies lately in my small yard. Having to de-poo the yard constantly to stay ahead of the fly invasion. Ive been freaked out all day over the poor lizard. And scared for my dog. Im in South Carolina.

  23. Joan Willard says:

    I found one of my anole lizards dead yesterday morning on my back porch and he had a big hole on his underside, just above his tail. I didn’t see any maggots but there was a lot of gooey mess in about a 4 inch circle, with lines going outwards, so they must have crawled away. My question is how would the maggots get into his body? Would he have eaten of of these Flesh Flies with eggs or maggots about to hatch? I do see these flies around sometimes but just try to keep them out of the house because I know they lay maggots on anything that is fresh, like meat that is defrosting. (This happened to me some years ago so now I keep everything covered … just in case!) Thank you all for publishing this information. It freaked me out when I saw my poor little lizard.

    • Hi Joan, flesh fly larvae hatch while still inside their mother, so the adult fly ‘lays’ them as fully active maggots. So the mother doesn’t need to deliver them to an appropriate location directly; she can simply release them nearby and the maggots can crawl there themselves.

      This also means you’re right to keep them out of the house. Female flesh flies don’t even need to land on meat to lay eggs; they can simply drop larvae on the meat while flying above.

  24. Natalie says:

    I need help! I took my southern alligator lizard to the vet because 2 small larvae came out of her nose and there was one still inside her. I later discovered they were phorid fly larvae but the vet has no idea how the got inside of her, she had no wounds and was a healthy lizard.

  25. Joan Willard says:

    Hi Natalie! Just last month I asked a similar question. Is it possible our lizards ate the fly and the eggs were released into their bodies and they attacked from within? Or perhaps the eggs were deposited on the outside of our lizards and then they turned into maggots and attacked from the outside? It was just a horrible situation. I hope your alligator lizard survived the attack.

  26. R Lorance says:

    Found a male anole, recently dead, no wounds or skin lesions. Curiosly it was fatter than a normal healthy specimen. Started to perform a necropsy, starting by examining the oropharynx. The jaws were firmly shut and difficult to pry open. While trying to open them, a larva/maggot appeared beside the lizard. On re-examination there was now a hole in the skin of the dorsal thorax where a second larva emerged. Then, a few mm away, a third larva emerged, creating a second hole. The holes were created by the larvae exiting and could not have been a point of entry for the parasite.
    However, ingestion of eggs or larvae can cause intestinal maggot infestation (myiasis) [Markell and Voge’s Medical Parasitology, 9th ed.] and an insectivore such as an anole is indiscriminate in food choice. The cases described above are likely caused by the anole eating the “wrong fly’.
    A Flesh Fly (Sarcophagid) could be the culprit, but identification of the adult fly once a larva matured would give that answer.

    • bugman says:

      Thank you so much for your well researched comment.

    • Niko says:

      Very very good information. Thanks for sharing! Perhaps the most concerning issue is that these flies seem to be causing widespread mayhem on levels unprecedented in past years. A solution to this problem has not yet been achieved. Controlling a particular fly species is difficult. Maybe there is a better solution than waiting for nature to solve it, but I haven’t been able to think of one yet.

  27. R Lorance says:

    Effects of sarcophagid fly infestations on green anole lizards (Anolis carolinensis): an analysis across seasons and age/sex classes
    DJ Irschick, G Gentry, A Herrel, B Vanhooydonck – Journal of Herpetology, 2006 – BioOne

  28. R Lorance says:

    ADDENDUM: I placed one of the larvae into a jar with slightly moist dirt. It burrowed under and in 3 weeks an adult Sarcophagid fly (species?) emerged. (See DH Blake: “Note on the rearing of Anolisimyia blakeae, a sarcophagid fly from the American chameleon, Anolis carolinensis”, published in the Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, Vol. 57, p. 187.)

  29. Kelly d says:

    The same thing happened to me and I love across the country in California.. I could a black/colorful lizard being eatin inside of and out side shed by those worms

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *