A Botfly is Born (Not Safe for Lunch)

Mark Moffet explains how a larva of the botfly Dermatobia hominis came to parasitize the back of his hand—illustrating in the squirm-inducing process the extent of his commitment to the cause of biodiversity.

Moffett, a researcher at the Smithsonian and a prolific entomological popularizer, claims rather grandly that he’s the only male to have enjoyed the miracle of birth; I don’t know—plenty of men and women in Belize and other tropical places have to deal with the nuisance of botflies (the Web is alarmingly replete with botfly imagery). But Moffett’s mettle is noteworthy nonetheless.

We can go farther back with mankind and botflies, though: a relative of the human botfly called the reindeer warble fly lays its eggs in the hides of caribou; the Inuit and other far-northern peoples consider the fat, salty maggots a delicacy. They’re even depicted in paleolithic art, as R. Dale Guthrie discusses in a fascinating book, The Nature of Paleolithic Art.

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