Nature's Clean Up Crew

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Maggots are a huge part of the ecosystem. They decompose many dead animals whether they're in the woods or even on the side of the road. They really are nature's clean up crew.

Maggots are fly eggs. So flies will lay their eggs in moist rotting material. A fly lays hundreds of eggs and they hatch between eight to twenty hours ("Maggots' Life"). Their color varies in light brown, yellow, and an off-white. They do not have legs but they have "one pair of tiny hook-like parts to aid in feeding" ("Maggot"). As soon as they hatch they start to eat on the surrounding area where the fly left them. They begin at a length of two to three millimeters. Once they reach ten millimeters in length they enter into the second larval stage. This stage is where the maggots shed their skin and continue to feed. They attain the third stage where they shed once they reach fifteen to twenty millimeters. The three stages are the main feeding stage of the maggot and they can eat for twenty-four hours straight. Flies last as maggots for eight to ten days in warm weather and about a month in cold weather ("Maggots' Life").

            Maggots can be used for several benefits to humans. One of the things their good for is to determine how long a body has been dead. Forensics figure out what stage the maggots are in and the weather of where the dead body is located to determine how long the body has been dead ("Forensics"). Another benefit maggots are to humans is that they can help save lives. Maggots are actually used today in the medical world. Doctors use them to eat the dead tissue of a burn or injury of a human being. When the maggots eat the tissue they actually disinfect the wound by killing the bacteria through eating it. For each square centimeter of damaged tissue the doctor will put five to ten maggots on it. Then the maggots would be covered with a wrapped bandaged that still allows them to breath for several days. When the maggots are feeding they can grow from two millimeters to ten millimeters while under the bandage. Patients find the maggots to not hurt while eating the dead tissue but they say it feels like an itch or a tickle. Maggots are only used as a last resort. So this means surgery or "conventional medic[ine]" did not work. This procedure has been found since the 1920's to the 1930's during the First World War. Men would save those who were injured for days and found that the ones who were still alive had maggots in their wounds ("Medical").

            A study done in Israel observed what happens to the bacteria while in the digestive tract of a maggot. The scientists chose "green fluorescent protein-producing Escherichia coli" as the bacteria and used a "laser scanning confocal microscope" to analyze the bacteria while in the digestive system. The results showed that in the mid-gut of the maggot the bacteria was the highest at 52.8%. Though the hind-gut had showed the bacteria had decreased significantly to 17.8%. Then towards the maggot's butt there was almost no bacteria left, so the feces of the maggot was either uncontaminated or had only a few bacteria left in it ("Destruction"). The study did not explain what kind of chemicals the mid-gut had that destroyed most of the bacteria. Also the study did not specify how many maggots were analyzed and how much bacteria they put in the maggots.



Works Cited:

"Destruction of Bacteria in the Digestive Tract of the Maggot of Lucilia sericata."  BioOne. 29 Nov. 2013 <>.

"Forensic Entomology Or The Use Of Insects In Death Investigations." Investigating Forensics. 27 Nov. 2013 <>.

"Maggot." ScienceDaily. 27 Nov. 2013     <>.

"Maggots' Life Cycle.' Buzzle. 27 Nov. 2013 <>.

 "Medical Maggots Treat As They Eat." National Geographic News. 29 Nov. 2013 <>.

Photo of Maggot:


Photo Of Close Up Maggot:


1 Comment

Hi Danielle! I found your blog post insightful and interesting, especially the part where you talk about the medical uses of maggots. I would have never thought that doctors actually put maggots on burn victims wounds for days to help rid them of bacteria and speed up the healing process. When doing a little more research on the topic I found that only a few species of fly larvae are suitable for this task, predominately blowflies, I also found that during the cleaning process the flies can grow up to an additional 8 millimeters in length, which is astonishing. I wanted to share an interesting article with you from the NWF that shows the many helpful uses of bugs that I was unaware of. I thought that you would appreciate an article like this, considering your blog post. Overall I enjoyed reading the post and will no longer look at maggots as a slimy worthless bug, rather a helpful contributor in the medical field.

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