Sometimes entomologists get up close and personal with the bugs they study. And sometimes they incubate bot flies in their own arms until the parasites burst out of their skin a la the movie "Alien."
Bot flies have gained infamy in the age of YouTube, and for good reason: They're parasitic creatures, and they reproduce by getting their larvae under the skin of a host. They usually do this by laying their eggs on mosquitoes that drop the eggs mid-drink, but they'll even leave eggs on foliage in a pinch, hoping a mammal will brush its skin against them.
When humans are the lucky recipients of the baby bugs, they usually do anything they can to extract them before they're mature. People who don't know better will try to squeeze them out of the skin like zits, which makes for gross but fascinating videos.
Entomologists are not like other people. Lucky enough to score a cool parasitic larva burrowing in your skin after a visit to Central America? The obvious thing to do is to rear your maggot out in your body until it’s an adult fly. For science.
In the last week, two entomologists proudly issued bot fly “birth” announcements of their little monsters. For one of them, it was his second try at rearing out the flesh-eating maggots to adults. (His first unsuccessful attempt at bot fly rearing in 2013 did result in a research publication, though, so it wasn’t a wasted effort.)
And oh good, one of them made a video:
This is definitely worth a watch if you have the stomach for it, because it gives a thrillingly detailed description of the life-cycle of the insect, and the experience of hatching one. But it also features footage of a large, squirmy bot fly baby wriggling its way out of an entomologist's arm -- so, uh, fair warning.
If you're desperate to give birth to a bot fly of your very own, you'll have to start frequenting South and Central America. Make sure to forego insect repellant, and leave lots of skin uncovered.
Raising a bot fly might be a particularly dramatic turn for an entomologist to take, but scientists of their ilk make similar sacrifices all the time. Researchers who work with mosquitoes often feed them with their own blood -- sustaining so many bites that they quickly become tolerant. And a recent breakthrough in bedbug science took nearly 200,000 bites worth of feeding time.