Currently viewing the category: "Maggots and Puparia"
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Hi what’s that bug
We seem to have a problem in Cape Town S.A. with rat tailed maggots, the city council is telling us that we have nothing to worry about. The maggots have been found in the water supply in 4 seperate areas of Cape town, all within a 50 km radius. Some people have found them in their toilets, some through the taps. Is there a cover up? We have recently had power cuts and the sewerage treatment plants went into crisis and untreated sewerage was flowing freely back into the water supply. Would this be the reason for the infestation? We also have a huge growing population that is over stretching the sewerage treatment works. When a water official visited a house who found a maggot, he refused to drink the water in their house and told them they had an isolated infestation that he would have to sort out.! What’s your take on this and would you drink the water if you visited Cape Town this week? Please help, I am currently buying expensive purified water – need to know if I should get my own filter unit in my house.
Yours worried
Lan Karner
Cape Town, South Africa
p.s. good site, have recommended you to peeps already

Hi Lan,
We are taking the liberty of posting your letter with an old photo of a Rat-Tailed Maggot we received. Rat Tailed Maggots are the larva of Drone Flies and feed on decaying organic matter, including human and animal fecal material. Despite what officials say, we believe the water is tainted. One can’t be too cautious when it comes to raw sewage. Take precautions, though we doubt a filter is enough to remove microbes. We wouldn’t drink the water now, filter or not, and advise you to stick to bottled drinking water. Filter your bathing water and good luck.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Back Alley Bug
Found about 15 of these bugs in about 100 sq ft of alley, no where else, near my house in south western Canada. The peice of alley is located near some gardens and compost piles. These little guys (body: 1", tail(?): 1 1/2") were walking all over the place. They have little legs at the front and rear ends of the body.Two different camera setting acount for the variance in color in the two photos. Can you tell me what it is.

Hi D,
This appears to be a Drone Fly Larva, Eristalis temax, also known as a Rat-Tailed Maggot. Drone Flies are large flies that are often mistaken for bees. Adults are common in flower fields where they feed on nectar and pollen. The Rat-Tailed Maggots are found in stagnant water filled with organic matter and are sometimes found in liquid cow manure, hence their appearance in an alley with compost piles. Here is some interesting information from our Audubon Guide: “Larvae, called Rat-Tailed Maggots, are usually found on wet carrion and in open latrines. They are responsible for numerous cases of intestinal myiasis in people. Adult flies sometimes emerge from carrion, a phenomenon that was probably the basis for the myth that Honey Bees develop in dead mammals, as told in the Biblical story of Samson and the lion, and in writings of Ovid, Vergil and Solomon. the adults so closely resemble Honey Bees that people and insectivorous animals avoid them.”

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

pantry beetle?
In my bedroom along the floorboard, underneath a window, about 20 of these, ranging in color from light white/yellow to dark brown red. At first I thought it was rice, till i picked one up with tweezers and squeezed it. Big mistake. I live in an apartment that recently had big time exterminators out for Carpenter ants. Since then, no ants, but now this? and in my bedroom? what can I expect? The house is very old, split into apartments so I am use to bugs of all sorts, but these, I don’t know, the fact that I found them in my bedroom, I am a little freaked out. Thanks in advance.

Hi Stephanie,
The good news is you do not have Pantry Beetles. The bad news is you will soon have a Fly invasion. It looks like Flies got into rotting organic matter somewhere (Forgot to take out the garbage? Dead mouse in the walls?) and laid eggs. The maggots developed unnoticed and some wandered to a dry place to pupate. You have Fly Pupae, or more correctly, Fly Puparia.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination

Dear AH,
A couple of years ago I think Jerry Seinfeld did a monologue about baby pigeons. “Why don’t you ever see them?” Well I took it as a kind of challenge; similar to when I was a kid my grandfather said he’d give any of us 5 bucks if we spotted an Idaho license plate. Years later I finally saw an Idaho license plate, but my grandaddy had died by then. But I digress. I have seen baby pigeons. In fact, I now see them all the time. I also seem to see Idaho license plates all the time now too. Now I’m not sure if it’s because I know empirically that they exist that I see them all the time, or maybe I previously suffered from a blind spot; like when you’re looking for the orange juice in the fridge but you can’t fucking find it cause it’s right in front of your nose. But what I’ve been wondering for years and never verbalized until now (because you have this great forum about bugs) is: Where do those fully grown, huge flys come from? I woke up the other morning, I hadn’t opened the doors or windows, I had no trash in my garbage, no turds on the floor, but I had a dozen HUGE houseflys buzzing all around my windows trying to get out. Inga (my dog) and I went crazy–me with the New York Times, her with her deadly snapping jaws–hunting them down and squarshing them until they were dead. It took a while. We were both hot and panting. Now I’m thinking I have house hygene issues. Maybe a blind spot. I just thoroughly cleaned my house the day before the “hatching” because a writer was coming to interview me for the magazine Dwell so I’d better have a tight-assed, spotless abode. So my question is, am I missing something? I know maggots are small, so are tadpoles, but at some point they’re little frogs. So wouldn’t those fuckers be little flys before they were the huge, unhygenic, buzzing bastards? Can you explain?
—David M
Brooklyn, New York

Dear Sir,
Flies are generally thought of as one of the great scourges to afflict mankind. Though certain species deserve that reputation, many others are beneficial insects, like flower flies. I doubt that those buzzing around your windows belong to the latter group, but I am unable to make a positive I.D. on their actual species based on your description. Are they black, green or blue? My grandmother always claimed that cooking cabbage caused flies to enter the house. Have you been cooking cabbage? Not wanting to diverge from your immediate questions, I can safely tell you that all flies undergo complete metamorphosis. While they are maggots at one point in their lives, they pupate and emerge as fully grown flies, attaining whatever size is particular to their species. They often go undetected until they reach that adult buzzing phase. I once had an invasion, and a closer inspection of my rather messy cottage revealed some potatoes under the sink that had gone bad. The culprets in your house could also be carrion eating flies that as maggots had been feasting on a dead rat in the walls or perhaps your next door neighbor. When was the last time you saw your neighbor? Often after feasting on their food source, the maggots will migrate some distance to find a safe and dry refuge for pupation. The filth you seek might be a considerable distance from your infestation. The duration of the metamorphosis varies with the heat. If you didn’t succeed in dispatching all the buzzing Muscidae (hopefully they were not Sarcophagidae, the flesh flies) before a few mated and laid eggs, and the weather is warm, you can expect a reinfestation within a week or two. Be forewarned that Hogue writes in in groundbreaking book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basin, that “flies are known to accumulate around natural gas leaks. They are probably attracted by ethyl mercaptan, a smelly substance added to gas to make leaks detectable to the human nose. The odor of ethyl mercaptan is similar to that of volatile substances released during the decomposition of carrion, upon which many domestic flies oviposit and their larvae feed.” Don’t light any matches until you have sufficiently inspected your entire home.

Daniel Marlos

Dear What’s That Bug (or should I say What’s That Maggot?!)
It’s true! The worst homebody kitchen nightmare is occurring in the UK. Maggot-y larvae-like creatures that sloth their way onto my kitchen floor late at night when no one is around. Seven the other night!
Before casting dispersions on the quality of home-maintenance at my flatshare, I must assert that despite my previous track record, cleanliness is next to both god and the queen mum here in my house now, and there are no bits on the floor or on any cabinet surfaces to attrack the offputting vermin. High standards have been maintained. And though I have visited the countryside in the last two weeks, there seems to be no sign of foot and mouth infection either. We have conducted a cursory sniff test and have no evidence of dead rotting flesh behind the cupboards, though they seem to gather in the floor corner and appear to be coming from behind the floor cabinets. What are the possible causes? and cures, short of yanking out all the cupboards and seeing what may lurk behind door number one. help!
Staying out of the kitchen at night in London,

Dear Kate,
Once again pestilence rears its ugly head. The house fly and its larval form, the maggot, is a truly domestic insect, so closely adapted to life in manmade environments that it is rarely found away from human habitations. The species, Musca domestica, is found throughout the world and is our worst pest among the flies. All kinds of decaying and fermenting organic material — commonly decomposing lawn clippings, gargage, and feces of dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, and poultry — provide breeding places for the larvae. The larvae migrate to drier places for pupation to occur, and it is possible that your clean flat is on their migration route. Maggots are also commonly found on dead and decaying animals. Due to the meat embargo, there are probably huge caches of decaying livestock scattered about the country. Is it possible that your flat is in close proximity to one of these toxic dumps? My other thought is that though you called the creepy-crawlies "maggot-y larvae-like creatures," you never gave me any other description regarding size and coloration. Most insect larvae are generic in form, hence the lumping of many species under the umbrella term. More specifics could be helpful. A caterpillar is a larva, but with true and pseudolegs to aid in locomotion. Beetle grubs are also "maggot-y" and many beetles bore into wood. Certain kinds of moths and beetles have larvae that are fond of flour products and often infest sacks of flour or oatmeal, or even spices that are stored away in dark cupboards. The last time I tried to use my imported Hungarian paprika, I discovered it to be ground zero for the meal moths that have been fluttering about my incandescent lamps at night, and promptly disposed of the tainted (and expensive) spice lest the infestation spread.
Good luck.

Daniel Marlos
What’s That Bug?

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination