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People may resent maggots because they are worms and eat rotting and decaying matter, but they can be used as fishing bait and, when sterilized, serve as scavengers of dead tissue.


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Maggots are the larvae of flies. They are legless creatures the size of a grain of rice. They are usually white, but some species (such as rat-tailed maggots) are red or brown. If you want to avoid them, keep items clean and avoid going to wet areas, as they need moisture to survive. Although they are omnivorous, the right climate may make this insect primarily carnivorous.

3 Unbelievable Facts!

  • It is rare to find maggots in humans, but it is possible if they come into contact with spoiled or rancid food, or if they become infected in tropical areas. Although unlikely, an infection called myiasis may occur if maggots also enter the intestine through the anus.
  • These insects generally do not feed on living hosts. Instead, they often choose dead or decaying matter, whether it comes from humans or plants.
  • The best way to get rid of maggots from your home is to pour boiling water over them. However, prevention through pest control methods (mainly cleaning) is the easiest option.


Maggots are the larvae or soft-bodied grubs of flies of the order Diptera , especially houseflies, cheese flies, and blowflies, although about half of all flies produce larvae that are considered maggots.

appearance and behavior

Maggots are small, legless fly larvae with two hooks that act like forks to eat plants and animals.


This insect is easy to identify. In most cases it is quite small, reaching a length of 25 mm or 1 inch. The creature has no legs at all, as it only grows them later in its life cycle. They have two small fork-like hooks on one end and can feed on plants and animals. The exception is the rat-tailed maggot, which has a long tail on its body. Rat-tailed maggots come exclusively from drones.

These invertebrates tend to live in groups because they all start out as eggs. They are not dependent on each other for food sources, but they are usually born to the same mother and their short lifespan forces them to coexist. A colony of maggots is called a grunt, and they are primarily driven by the need to eat. They are not aggressive when chasing other animals, but they are focused on surviving as adults.

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Although their diet is primarily carnivorous, maggots do not hunt. The plant and animal matter they consume is dead and therefore already in a state of decay. They don't have any preference for any particular animal.


Fly the larvae together onto a leaf
Maggots are voracious eaters of dead and decaying matter, so their habitat is anywhere they find food.

©Astrid Gast/Shutterstock.com

Most of these larvae will find habitat where food is available. They will look for areas with rotting food, organic matter, dirt, and decaying matter, regardless of source. You might even find them in poorly kept kitchens, in spoiled food, or even in pet food. To avoid calling out pest control, keep your home clean and free of these insects. Never leave garbage lying around in an area, and don't keep any food past its use-by date. The best pest control is to clean up right after you eat or make a mess.

Typically, they seek out living tissue as habitat or to feed on as a food source. However, there are some edge cases that could allow the insect to survive inside the human body. Maggots in humans are rare, but it can cause an infection called myiasis. The infection allows maggots to enter the body through contaminated food or directly through the anus, into the intestinal tract. This infection rarely occurs in the United States but is common in tropical regions such as Africa and South America.

Due to the short larval stage of the life cycle, this insect usually does not have time to migrate. As adults, flies can survive almost anywhere.

Predators and Threats

Due to their small size, maggots tend to be on the menu of many animals, including the rove beetle. Since they can remain in the soil stage for a while, they are used as food for beetles and other small insects. Their food usually consists of waste, fruit and overripe vegetables, fermented matter, and plant/animal matter in a state of decay. Only in extreme cases will maggots feed on tissue containing living organisms.

The only threat seems to be the possibility of being eaten or killed in pest control. However, due to the infestation of flies, no protective measures are taken to protect them.

Also known as grubs, these animals are at the bottom of the food chain. Lots of wild birds, foxes, raccoons, frogs, lizards, turtles, salamanders and snakes. Amphibians also eat maggots if given the chance.

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Reproduction, Babies and Longevity

pile of maggots
Maggots are the larval stage of the fly's life cycle, only about a month old.

© iStock.com/okugawa

Maggots are laid by female flies. To obtain sperm from a male, the female inserts her ovipositor into the male's genital opening. Mating is not a quick process, taking up to two hours to obtain the maximum number of useful sperm. Although they are not monogamous, female flies have a short lifespan (about 1 month), leaving just enough time to mate with one partner. The female lays about 500 to 2,000 eggs in her short lifetime, but in batches of no more than 150 per lay.

Maggots are the larval stage of the fly life cycle. They are fly pups that are born within a day of the fly laying their eggs and require no support from a mother or father. Some fly eggs hatch in as little as 7 hours. Maggots cannot see the actual image, but they are born with photoreceptors that allow them to see the brightness of their surroundings.

The average lifespan of a fly is about one month. It spends approximately 3-5 days in the profuse feeding phase before reaching the pupal stage. From hatching, it takes 14-36 days to go from egg to adult fly.


Determining the number of maggots in the world is nearly impossible. There is no natural order in the world for these young flies, which emerge in thousands within a day after the female lays her eggs. Their populations are generally not appreciated by those who encounter them, and there are currently no conservation efforts in their favor. When you see larvae, your first thought may be to call pest control.


pile of maggots
Maggots make good bait and are an important indicator for forensic scientists to determine the time of death.

© iStock.com/Tsekhmister

Anglers use maggots commercially to catch non-predatory fish. They are actually one of the most popular lures for European anglers. What fishermen do is toss large handfuls of maggots into the waters they target. This then attracts fish to the area, making them easier to catch.

Live maggots from certain species of flies are also used for wound healing and cleansing. Although, only use the right variety, otherwise it will cause more damage to the wound. Live, sterilized maggots may be introduced into any unhealed skin of soft wounds in humans or animals in a controlled sterile environment supervised by a medical professional. The maggot species used is called Lucila sericata , and it is one of the only species approved for sale in markets outside the United States.

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In addition, maggots are used in forensic science. The presence and development of maggots on the cadaver helps in estimating the time of death. By studying the insects present at crime scenes, forensic entomologists can find out the approximate time of death to help solve crimes.

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This is the larval stage of the fly life cycle, hatched from fly eggs. Flies take up to 36 days from egg to adult.

Fly eggs look a lot like soft rice grains and release legless white worms in the larval stage. They especially like to thrive in decaying vegetable or animal matter.

If you accidentally eat one of these insects, you're unlikely to be in any real danger. However, if you eat food that has gone bad, you run the risk of food poisoning, which can be a serious medical problem that can last for days.

Total incubation time varies from two hours to three days, depending on their progress. Once hatched, the larvae will turn into flies within 6 hours to 5 months.

It looks like a short, white worm less than a quarter of an inch long.

There are various ways to kill them. Pouring boiling water on them is a quick fix that kills them instantly. However, to make sure they don't survive, add a mixture of 1.5 cups of hydrogen peroxide and one cup of bleach per gallon. Some people try to pour salt on it to dehydrate the insect since it thrives on moisture.

indirect. Food poisoning from eating infected food is a major risk, but the cause is the food itself, not the maggots. They feed on already decaying plants and animals and therefore pose no threat to living humans.

Garbage, rotting dead animals, or dog waste can show up in an area if they are not stored properly. Female flies use these types of areas to lay their eggs, and their presence can be dangerous for pets.

Maggots aren't much of a threat, but finding them in your home is a sign of something dirty that needs to be cleaned up as soon as possible.

Maggots can grow inside the host, living in the stomach, intestines and mouth in the case of myiasis.

Maggots are a sign of plant or animal decay, as this is what attracts female flies to lay their eggs.

In most cases, maggots are carnivorous. However, some species are also omnivores.