If you’re squeamish, stop reading! This is a disgusting travel tale that reads more like a Sci-Fi flick starring Jeff Goldblum than it does a real life occurrence. It’s graphic, it’s gross and worst of all it happened to me.
Filming Word Travels took me to the Western part of Belize for a jungle survival course. As I hacked my machete through dense, spiky vines, my guide listed potential dangers lurking behind every tree: venomous Fer-De-Lance snakes, carnivorous Jaguars, hot-tempered fire ants and the little-known Bot Fly.
Found in Central America, a Bot Fly looks much like a house fly, only bigger and harrier. It breeds by attaching its eggs to a mosquito. When the mosquito bites its victim (be it a dog, rabbit or travel writer) the Bot Fly larvae burrows into the host’s skin. For a gestation period of about six weeks, the Bot Fly grows from microscopic larvae into a plump, white worm.
Fly maggots living under the skin? Yuck.
Since I’d worn long pants, dressed in light-coloured clothing and doused myself in Deet like it was Dior, I figured I was protected. Unfortunately, I left the jungle covered in itchy red mosquito bites and lingering questions…
My paranoia grew, as did the mysterious red pimple on my butt. The spot increased in size and hardened into a round callous. Along with the occasional outburst of pus, there was a stinging sensation in my wound, as if someone was sticking a Voodoo needle into me from inside. People thought I was crazy, but I was convinced. I had Bot Fly.
Though I joked publicly about being ‘pregnant’ with my very own baby Bot Fly, privately I worried that an alien species had taken over my body. The crew claimed I was crazy. They thought I'd just turned nutso...I was just over-reacting, they told me. I was convinced...I was contaminated.
Hours of Internet research taught me that this parasite doesn’t cause significant health problems or carry disease. It’s more the thought than the actual threat.
Bot Fly larva can be killed by removing its air supply, so I covered my wound with air-tight duct tape and waited overnight.
Eight hours later, I ripped the tape off with the enthusiasm of a child on Christmas morning. Straining to see the hard-to-reach spot, I discovered no evidence of a jungle worm. Bummer.
Frustration set in. Did I have it or not? The boys said no, yet I wasn't sure. It became clear I needed medical attention. Having never heard of (or treated) Bot Fly, my Canadian doctor concluded it was just an infected mosquito bite. She wrote me a prescription and told me to apply the cream three times daily.
This discouraging diagnosis led this skeptical patient to Dr. Mom. A travel writer herself, Mom is familiar with tropical oddities. Though she doesn’t have medical expertise, she is good at tweezing her eyebrows, so we sterilized her pluckers grabbed some cotton swabs and prepared for surgery.
“I see something white,” she said looking at the wound. “Is it pus?” I stammered. “What is it?”
Silent concentration. A little gasp from Mom. I looked up and found she had extracted a little white worm pinched between the metal prongs. The larvae was the size of a fingernail, a spiral of black hairs along his body. We stared astounded.
My stomach went queasy. It was a combo of relief, disgust and “I-told-you-so” bravado. Sick! I had just delivered my very own Bot Fly, one of Belize’s most unusual “souvenirs.”
I couldn't wait to tell Robin and the film crew!!! Told ya so!
< back to the episode
< back to the list of articles