What Causes Maggots

By Frederick S. Blackmon; Updated April 24, 2017
What Causes Maggots

There is a common misconception that maggots spontaneously generate from rotted meat and trash. These tiny creatures are misunderstood and largely underappreciated. Maggots come from flies. There are two distinct ways a fly can generate their offspring: by laying eggs or by producing larvae. A female fly deposits her eggs in overripe or raw foods so that her young can eat their way through maturity. Certain types of flour and grains can be contaminated with thousands of weevil eggs. Fruit flies can deposit their eggs in damaged fruits and vegetables before you can even get them home from the grocery store. Once the eggs hatch, they enter a larvae stage and feed on the rotted food. Maggots act like tiny trash compactors disposing of dead bio-matter.

A single female fly can lay 300 eggs at one time. With several flies laying eggs on a corpse simultaneously, the number of spawning maggots can be immense. Maggots can consume 60 percent of a human body in less than a week. The eggs hatch in about two to three days, and the larvae then enter their first stage, when they are roughly 2 mm in length. They feed until shedding their skin and grow an additional 3 mm in length. The second stage passes and the larvae grow to about 20 mm. Once they reach the pre-pupae stage, the flies grow wings and leave their early feeding grounds.

"Medical debridement therapy" is the new technical term for a procedure where maggots eat away at necrotic tissue, but maggots have been used for medical purposes for hundreds of years. Civil War surgeons noticed that patients with maggot-infected wounds healed faster. Yet the popularity of medical maggots continues to wax and wane. Laura Neergaard of the Associated Press reports that medical maggots are making a huge comeback. The tiny larvae are used in wound therapy and are the first live creatures to receive approval from the Food and Drug Administration as a medical device.

About the Author

Frederick S. Blackmon's love for fiction and theater eventually led to a career writing screenplays for the film and television industry. While living in Florida, Blackmon began exploring issues on global warming, health and environmental science. He spent two years as a Parkour and free-running instructor as well. Now he writes everything from how-to blogs to horror films.