Maggots often get a bad rap. Sure, they are mildly repulsive but they serve a purpose in the circle of life. There are a lot of insects that creep people out; spiders, wasps, ants, silverfish and centipedes usually top the list but seeing a bloated maggot wiggle around is u sure to unnerve anyone. Maggots have been used for medical application for years; add to that the numerous ways that forensic scientists study then for cases and you can’t help but think that maggots aren’t all that bad.
Medical Applications: Having had numerous debridements I can say that they are not fun. They can be painful during the procedure but it is the stress to the area that lingers for days. Maggots that are ‘hand raised’ in a clinical setting are used to clear away diseased or infected tissue but they never attack anything that is living. While it may seem crude or disgusting, it is a less painful and traumatic alternative to having someone entering a wound and cutting out dead areas. Maggots provide an extreme amount accuracy when cleaning a wound, something that no surgeon could ever do.
Circle of Life: Most people assume that all maggots are from flies but there are other animals that have maggots in their birth cycle or at the very least a close comparable. The mealworm (Darkling Beetle) goes through several cycles before it transforms into a beetle. The most common form is the brown worm-like mealworm but it also enters a maggot like stage in the pupa portion of its growth. Fruit fly gnats, another form of maggot, are hard to spot but once you see one fruit fly, there are guaranteed to be more on the way. Ingesting the eggs of fruit flies (often found on ripe fruit) won’t kill you but it can give you extreme bouts of diarrhea.
Forensic Studies: If flies, maggots or pupa are found one or near a body it can help crime scene investigators narrow down the time of death, if the body was moved and in cases of extreme decomposition they can be autopsied. Yes, you read that right. No, it isn’t a conventional autopsy but it involves a blender, a handful of maggots and someone that isn’t particularly fond of yogurt. The number of flies, larva / pupa and maggots on or around a body as well as the number of generations can help narrow down the time of death.
In regards to the common household fly, from the hatching of the egg to the emergence of the completed adult can take as many as thirteen days or a little as five. The weather conditions and temperature play a huge part in the timeline. Maggots will also vary in size and color. I have seen fly larva on windows and on rotting animals and the ones that have been attached to any type of rotting flesh have matured faster and had stronger offspring. The life of a maggot isn’t easy; birds find them super tasty and there are a plethora of animals that will scavenge on them. Likewise, maggots are often killed by humans that see them as a plague. They are one of the rather gruesome and icky portions of the insect life cycle but I am sure a fly would look at human gestation and the child birth process and feel the same way.