Flesh Fly: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Flesh flies, belonging to the Sarcophagidae family, are a common type of fly often associated with dead animals. These flies play an essential role in decomposition, as they lay their eggs in recently deceased animals, and their larvae consume the decaying flesh. It’s important to note that both the maggots and adult flies are harmless to humans.

These insects come in different species and exhibit some unique traits. For example, blow flies, which belong to the Calliphoridae family, tend to have a metallic coloration on their thorax and abdomen, often appearing bright blue-green, while flesh flies exhibit a less vibrant coloration. The life cycles of these insects provide valuable information to forensic entomologists, as they can determine the time of death in crime investigations.

In terms of control measures, it is crucial to keep dumpsters and garbage areas clean, with lids closed, to prevent these flies from breeding. Additionally, exclusion techniques using caulking, weather stripping, and door sweeps can also help keep flesh flies out of buildings.

Flesh Fly Identification

Appearance

Flesh flies have a distinctive checkerboard pattern on their thorax and abdomen, with alternating dark and light areas. Some key features are:

  • Red eyes
  • Thorax often displaying three black stripes
  • Metallic coloration on some species

Habitat

Flesh flies are commonly found in urban environments. They prefer:

  • Areas near garbage cans and dumpsters
  • Breeding sites with decomposing organic matter
  • Places with high moisture and odors

Behavior

Flesh flies exhibit some unique behaviors, such as:

  • Being ovoviviparous, they give birth to live maggots
  • Attracted to dead animals for breeding
  • May enter buildings in search of food sources

Comparisons

Features Flesh Flies Blow Flies
Appearance Checkerboard pattern Metallic blue-green
Red eyes Yes No
Black stripes On thorax
Ovoviviparous Yes No (lay eggs)
Habitat preference Urban environments Similar to Flesh flies

Life Cycle of Flesh Flies

Egg Stage

Flesh flies, unlike other flies, give birth to live larvae instead of laying eggs. They do this by depositing their larvae directly onto their preferred food source, which is usually decaying matter or a recently deceased animal.

Larval Stage

  • Duration: 5-10 days
  • Food: Decaying matter or carcasses

The larvae of flesh flies feed on the decaying organic matter for a brief period of 5-10 days. This stage is crucial for their growth and development.

Pupal Stage

  • Location: Dry place
  • Duration: Varies depending on species

After completion of the larval stage, the larvae leave their food source and look for a dry location to pupate. In this stage, they enter a hibernation-like state and undergo a complete metamorphosis.

Adult Stage

The adult flies emerge from the pupal stage, ready to mate and continue the life cycle. Adult flesh flies have a dull-grayish color with three stripes on the thorax and a gray checkerboard pattern on their abdomen.

In summary, the life cycle of flesh flies is characterized by:

  • Live larval birth instead of egg-laying
  • Larvae feeding on decaying matter or carcasses for growth and development
  • Pupation in a dry location
  • Complete metamorphosis in a hibernation-like state
  • Emergence of adult flies ready for reproduction

Flesh Fly Infestation Signs

Presence of Maggots

One of the first signs of a flesh fly infestation in your home or environment is the presence of maggots. Maggots are the larvae of flesh flies and can be found in:

  • Garbage bins
  • Animal carcasses
  • Rotting meat

Flesh fly maggots are typically white, 1/2 inch in size, and have no visible head1.

Strong Odors

Flesh flies are attracted to strong, unpleasant smells, particularly those from decomposing organic matter. Odors to watch out for include:

  • Rotting meat
  • Dead animals
  • Garbage

If you notice a sudden increase in foul smells in or around your property, it may be a sign of a flesh fly infestation.

Dead Animals

Flesh flies are known for being associated with dead animals, as they lay their eggs in recently deceased carcasses2. If you find dead animals in or around your property, it may attract flesh flies and increase the risk of infestation. Common dead animals that attract flesh flies include:

  • Birds
  • Squirrels
  • Mice

Consider removing dead animals and properly disposing of garbage to prevent attracting flesh flies and other pests.

Comparison Table: Flesh Flies and House Flies

Feature Flesh Flies House Flies
Size 1/2 inch or slightly larger 1/4 inch long
Color Gray and black checkered pattern Gray with 4 black stripes on thorax
Larval stage location Dead animals, garbage, decomposing organic matter Organic waste, decaying vegetables, feces
Disease transmission Less common Known for spreading diseases like food poisoning and dysentery3

Flesh Fly Control and Prevention

Cleaning and Waste Management

Flesh flies can become a nuisance when they infest animal carcasses or decaying matter. To prevent their growth and maintain a clean environment:

  • Regularly dispose of garbage and waste, keeping garbage cans clean and with tight-fitting lids.
  • Remove any animal carcasses in the vicinity.
  • Clean up pet waste in your yard promptly.

Use of Traps and Fly Swatters

To control flesh flies indoors, consider using traps or fly swatters:

  • Set up fly traps near windows and doors where flies tend to enter.
  • Utilize fly swatters or a vacuum to remove flies from your home.

Sealing and Exclusion

Preventing flesh flies from entering your home is crucial in managing their population:

  • Seal all cracks and crevices, especially in the crawl space and attic areas.
  • Install screens on your windows and doors to keep flies out.

By following these simple approaches, you can successfully control and prevent flesh flies from becoming a problem in your home.

Pros and Cons of Flesh Fly Control Methods in Table Form:

Method Pros Cons
Cleaning Reduces breeding sites Requires regular effort
Waste Management Prevents fly attraction
Traps Effective in catching flies Needs regular changing
Fly Swatters Instant fly removal Manual effort
Sealing/Exclusion Prevents fly entry Could be time-consuming

Flesh Fly Health Risks

Parasitic Infections

Flesh flies, which belong to the family Sarcophagidae, have larvae that sometimes act as biological controls for other pests. However, they can also carry parasites that may infect humans or animals. For example:

  • Internal parasites: Flesh flies may transmit parasites that infiltrate the gastrointestinal or respiratory systems of their host.

Bacterial Infections

Flesh flies are known for their association with decaying matter and dead animals. This environment exposes them to various bacteria that can be transmitted to humans or animals when the flies come into contact with open wounds or food. Some of the bacteria they may carry are:

  • Leprosy bacteria: Flesh flies have been found to transmit Mycobacterium leprae, which causes leprosy in humans.

Myiasis

Myiasis is the infestation of living tissue with fly larvae, which can be particularly dangerous for humans and animals. Flesh flies can deposit their larvae in open wounds or even healthy skin, leading to an invasive and painful condition.

Examples

  • Forensic specialists: Often use flesh fly larvae found on a body to help determine the time of death.
  • Infestations: Flesh fly larvae may consume living tissue, creating more severe wounds and increasing the risk of bacterial infections.
Risk Factor Flesh Fly Fruit Fly
Parasitic Infections Yes No
Bacterial Infections Yes No
Myiasis Yes No

Key Features

  • Flesh flies are attracted to decaying matter and dead animals.
  • Their larvae can infest living tissue.
  • They can carry and transmit dangerous parasites and bacteria.

Characteristics

  • Flesh flies belong to the family Sarcophagidae.
  • They are usually gray with red eyes.
  • Females deposit larvae instead of eggs.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Flesh flies can help control other pests as they consume their larvae.

Cons:

  • They can transmit parasites, bacteria, and cause myiasis.

Flesh Fly Management in Different Settings

Household Environments

Flesh flies can often be found in homes, especially where there are exposed trash and decaying organic material. To prevent a flesh fly problem in a household setting:

  • Ensure proper sanitation and regular cleaning of trash cans
  • Dispose of food waste and animal waste in sealed containers

One effective method for controlling flesh fly populations indoors is using fly traps or insecticides.

Restaurants and Meat Processing

In restaurants and meat processing facilities, flesh flies can pose a serious hygiene concern. Proper management strategies should be in place to avoid contamination of food.

  • Regular inspection of food storage areas and waste disposal areas
  • Installing fly-proof screens on windows and doorways
  • Routine sanitation measures in food preparation areas
  • Properly storing meat products and eliminating any spoiled items

Comparing flesh flies with other common flies in these settings, like house flies and blow flies:

Fly Type Attracted to Preferred Environment Disease Transmission
Flesh Fly Decaying meat Meat processing areas Low risk
House Fly Food waste Kitchens, trash areas Higher risk
Blow Fly Dead animals Outdoor settings Low risk

Outdoor and Animal-Related Facilities

Flesh flies often thrive in outdoor and animal-related facilities like farms and composting sites. Effective management methods here include:

  • Regular removal of animal waste
  • Proper maintenance of composting systems
  • Ensuring dead animals are removed and properly disposed of

In outdoor settings across America, it’s crucial to have a combination of cultural, biological, and chemical control methods to manage flesh fly populations, as suggested by Penn State Extension.

Flesh Fly Species and their Distribution

Genera and Diversity

Flesh flies belong to the family Sarcophagidae in the order Diptera. They are known for their association with decaying organic matter, particularly carcasses. Some key features of flesh flies include:

  • Grayish-black color
  • Checkerboard pattern on the abdomen
  • Red eyes

There are over 2,000 species within Sarcophagidae, which is further divided into many genera, for instance, Sarcophaga. An example being the red-tailed flesh fly (Sarcophaga haemorrhoidalis).

Geographical Distribution

Flesh flies exhibit global distribution, with the exception of South America. They are predominantly found in outdoor environments, often at the intersection of dung, decaying plants, and decaying flesh with daylight. This is due to their preference to lay eggs in recently deceased animals, serving as an essential process in the decomposition cycle.

In comparison to other fly families, like Orthoptera, Sarcophagidae has a broader distribution. Here’s a comparison table for your reference:

Fly Family Geographical Distribution
Sarcophagidae Global, except South America
Orthoptera Predominantly tropical and temperate

To summarize, flesh flies are an essential part of the decomposition process, with a wide variety of species distributed globally, making them a noteworthy topic of study.

Footnotes

  1. Identifying Common Household Insect Pests

  2. Blow and Flesh Flies

  3. House Flies and Other Filth Flies

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – What Parasitized the Lizard????

 

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

 

Letter 2 – Flesh Fly

 

June 23, 2010
We left the front and back doors open for more than an hour this morning and found we had let two large flies into the house.  We trapped one in a drinking glass and took it outside before eating lunch.  Later in the afternoon we took some photos.

We quickly identified this Flesh Fly in the subfamily Sarcophaginae on BugGuide.  According to Charles Hogue in Insects of the Los Angeles Basin:  “Flesh flies have rather broad pads on the feet;  males of many species have a red-tipped abdomen.”  Our specimen has a red tipped abdomen indicating he is a male.  Hogue also indicates:  “Most of the members of this family are wild flies, but many species accidentally enter dwellings that are near their breeding sites.  The larvae live in fish and animal carcasses and other decomposing organic matter, particularly discarded meat.”  After taking photos inside the glass, we released the Flesh Fly who stuck around long enough to have a nice photo taken on the outside rim of the glass.
Mt. Washington, Los Angeles, CA

Flesh Fly

Letter 3 – Flesh Fly

 

Flesh Fly photo
Location:  Seminole, Oklahoma
July 24, 2010 6:11 pm
Thought you might like this photo of a flesh fly. It was snacking(?) on a cicada carcass. Or maybe laying it’s eggs in there? Love your site!
Amy Goodman

Flesh Fly

Hi Amy,
We have been going through the past several days of letters in search of one in particular, and we keep finding subject lines that intrigue us and distract us from our goal because we think it is important to post the distracting letter.  Your image of a Flesh Fly in the family Sarcophagidae will be wonderful as it will help our readership identify these large flies with red eyes and what BugGuide describes as a thorax with “
3 black racing stripes on a gray background.

Letter 4 – Invasion of the Flesh Flies

 

Attack of the flies!
Location: Pleasanton, CA
June 20, 2011 3:45 pm
Before this morning, I haven’t seen more than 2 flies in my home at one time. Last night the coast was clear and then this morning I woke up to my hallway covered in these suckers. They look like house flies but gray and probably like 5 times bigger. At first none of them were flying, only crawling around like a spider would but then when it started to get warmer during the day they flew all over. I took to the internet and tried to identify the best I could and the closest I saw was a stable fly. Um, how and why?! Orkin man came later on in the day and sprayed and said that I had nothing to worry about that it’s not what I think it is. He told me that it’s just a bigger version of a green house fly. I was comforted until he said that because it looks nothing like that! These things are resilient too. I sprayed one with Windex and Pinsol and then stomped on it and it was still squirming!
These are the best pictures that I could get since all the other ones I killed have all their guts smashed out and markings are not quite visible any longer.
Please tell me I’m wrong in thinking that this is a stable fly. I would love to be wrong. And/or tell me that I’m overreacting to the dangers. I keep thinking that I’ll go to sleep tonight just to wake up to welts from bites and have more of these suckers on the wall and everywhere around me!
Signature: Scared and paranoid

Flesh Fly

Dear Scared and paranoid,
We hope we are able to comfort you by telling you that this is NOT a Stable Fly, though our actual identification might send you over the edge.  This is a Flesh Fly in the family Sarcophagidae.  We also don’t believe the Orkin Man solved your problem, though we are certain he had no problems separating you from your money.  All he could succeed in doing was to kill the living Flesh Flies that had emerged in your home, but he could do nothing to prevent future occurrences.  Flesh Flies do not bite and the adults do not pose any threat to you.  Flesh Flies breed in decaying organic matter, including decomposing animals.  Perhaps there was a dead animal in the walls which resulted in your Flesh Fly invasion.  When the weather is warm, Flesh Flies may breed very quickly in decaying food like meat bones and fat or fish carcasses in the garbage can that has not been properly emptied.  Once, we had some rotten potatoes under the sink and that proved to be a breeding ground for Flesh Flies.  You need to locate the source of the invasion, though Flesh Flies will not continue to breed in a carcass once it has passed a certain stage of decomposition.  Generally, once the original infestation has occurred, you do not need to worry about subsequent invasions.  See BugGuide for additional information on Flesh Flies.

Letter 5 – You've Got Flesh Flies

 

flies
Location: St. Louis, MO
June 22, 2011 10:55 am
Recently my family and I have noticed flies in our kitchen. (They look bigger
than normal houseflies, and are showing up in great numbers.) We don’t know
where they are coming from or what type they are. The flies have red eyes, red
head, and a hairy body.
-The Fogarty Family
Signature: The Fogarty Family

Flesh Fly

Dear Fogarty Family,
You have Flesh Flies.  Some species breed in rotting meat and others breed in other types of rotting organic matter.  In our Glassell Park studio in the 1980s, we had a horrible infestation of Flesh Flies that bred in the rotting potatoes under the kitchen sink.  Take out the garbage more frequently especially when the weather is especially warm.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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64 thoughts on “Flesh Fly: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. I started seeing these around the back of my house a few years ago, and had never seen them before. Once I found out what they were, I asked around, and it turns out that my neighbors had started a compost pile in their backyard. When I went to see it, these flies were swarming around it, so I think the rotting food discards were the source, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Jessi. Some Flesh Flies will feed on decomposing vegetable matter, and the experience we had with the rotten potatoes under the sink is all the proof we needed to believe that claim.

      Reply
  2. We had smelled something in my house MONTHS ago by our stove and we knew something died, so we searched and searched and searched. Could not find a thing we cleaned out the oven and everywhere around it. The smell started to leave so we thought it was just like old grease or something. Now all of a sudden I was doing the dishes and a big group of flies came from up under the oven. Its really disgusting Dx

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
    • I am not sure if this is the answer, but yesterday I saw a baby anole out of the corner of my eye> I turned to lookat it and just as i did a wasp flew down and stung it they scuffled around a bit and the wasp flew off carrying the tiny lizard away.

      Reply
  4. These flies DO bite, and bite very severely. Feeling the stab, I knocked one off my arm and the site was blistered, but it flared up all summer. The site was 2 inches circular. Be very afraid!

    Reply
  5. 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?

    Reply
  6. 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

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
  8. 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.

    Reply
  9. 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.

    Reply
  10. I found, what looked like dark colored maggots, around a wet spot. I took it to be feces and urine from whatever has been getting into my under-sink areas in kitchen and bathroom. My dog has been going nuts, trying to get at something in my cold air registers, in my mobile home. I have mouse traps set, but I think I’m dealing with something bigger than a mouse. Does one thing have anything to do with the other?

    Reply
  11. 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!

    Reply
  12. Linda is right. They DO bite and it is nasty. It is not AS itchy as a mosquito bite but it is larger and redder. It feels like multiple tiny bumps in a small area.

    It might be worthwhile noting, I am one of those people that biting insects find most appealing. Also, I live in the country in Ontario.

    Reply
  13. Linda is right. They DO bite and it is nasty. It is not AS itchy as a mosquito bite but it is larger and redder. It feels like multiple tiny bumps in a small area.

    It might be worthwhile noting, I am one of those people that biting insects find most appealing. Also, I live in the country in Ontario.

    Reply
  14. 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

    Reply
  15. 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

    Reply
  16. 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!

    Reply
  17. 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.

    Reply
  18. 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.

    Reply
  19. 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!

    Reply
  20. 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!

    Reply
  21. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  22. 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.

    Reply
  23. 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?!!

    Reply
  24. 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.

    Reply
  25. 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…

    Reply
  26. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

      Reply
  27. 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.

    Reply
  28. 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?!

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  29. 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

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    • 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.

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  30. 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.

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  31. Just like the original post- I had only seen 1 or 2 at a time in my studio apartment in nyc. Then the other day, it was like a plague had descended upon my home and there were over 10 huge flies crawling on the walls and flying around. When I swatted them with a fly swatter I discovered, much to my disgust, that each one had about 20-30 live (and crawling) maggots attached to its body. Has anyone had any experience with this? I am an extremely clean person, never leave food/dishes out, and take my trash out every day. My apt is tiny, so I think I would smell rotting flesh/ if something had died… Please help!!!

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  32. 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.

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    • 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.

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    • 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.

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  33. 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.

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  34. 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.

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  35. Does anyone know why the adults hang around on the ground?? Almost like they enjoy walking around like spiders more than flying and seems like they stop to take naps?! Most are just about dead, but then when I try to pick them up they start flailing around and sometimes they flip back on the feet and take off flying for window or out into a hall.. I don’t get it! And I feel like they are playing dead half the time, they will curl their legs in and go belly up for a long period of time and then all of a sudden be perfectly fine!! Answers please!

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  36. 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.

    Reply
  37. 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.

    Reply
    • 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.

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  38. 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

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  39. 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

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  40. 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.)

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  41. 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

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  42. Saw the very same thing when vacationing in FL earlier this month. Took my mini schnauzer out one morning to go potty and at the bottom of the stairs was a lizard barking in the sun on a sidewalk. Mischa, my dog, quickly rushed upon it and sniffed it vigorously. Its mouth snapped open in an act of defense. I looked more closely at it, and noticed strange black mottled markings all over its body. There were small bands of bright green pigment wrapped around its torso. Immediately I knew something was wrong with it. At first I thought it was shedding its skin. Its reactions were delayed and it didnt scurry off the moment it saw us, like most lizards do. I saw it kind of shudder. And thought for sure it was about to emerge from its old blackened skin, and as I leaned in closer for a closer look I saw a tiny worm peak its head out of a small hole on the right side of its ribcage (almost right under its armpit). The worm peaked its head out and quickly lowered itself back into the belly of its host. It totally freaked me out. I found it to be very upsetting, and have been too “scared” to even research the topic to see what the parasite was that killed the little lizard. Glad I found this thread. Thanks yall.

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  43. So I found the exact same thing. Lizard is currently alive . I got 5 out of him…I dont think he’ll make it…but I’ll try and keep him warm till he passes.

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  44. Yes, I saw a backyard anole trying to get an attacker. When I looked, he had a dark hole in his side and some green and blue insect was poking its head out of the hole. Saw him a few days later and he looked very sickly. Now I am discovering more anoles with holes in their sides. Texas

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  45. My son found this anole this morning. Still alive. A maggot exactly like the one in the picture here emerged from each hole. I asked my son not to take his anger out on the maggot so we can figure out what they are! If we get a third maggot we will try to see how it develops. Either a fly or a wasp. Let’s hope we get something… but sadly I doubt the host will survive 🙁 I got pics

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  46. I just saw an anole lizard on my washing machine lid last night. It looked dead but it couldn’t have been there long cuz I would have noticed it, so I attempted to Pat it’s a little back in an effort to maybe have some kind of CPR affect. I got so excited because it started moving I thought I saved it… And then it’s mouth opens and I’m thinking maybe I really did save it. But to my horror the mouth is opening and it’s because these little maggot things are crawling out of it I guess because I was pushing on them thinking it was the lizards inside. Like five or six came out of him one was trying to come out near its tail the rest came out of its mouth and when they were all out the lizard was just about flat so disturbing

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