Fun With Maggots

Which came first: the maggot or the fly?

I never considered this question before moving to Johannesburg. Now that I’m here, I think about it at least once a year.

Once every summer, I make the mistake of waiting too long to empty my kitchen garbage. A fly gets into the garbage can and lays eggs. A day later, there are maggots.

Behold: the maggot. The sesame seed on the floor next to him gives an indication of his size. That black thing is a piece of dirt stuck to his face.

Last summer this happened when there was a sanitation worker strike and we put off taking out the trash for a few days. We awoke one morning to a major infestation — our bin was crawling with maggots. Jon and I (well, mostly Jon) spent an entire morning trying to de-maggot the kitchen and trash bin. I nearly passed out with disgust, and swore I would never let it happen again.

Maggots are sturdy little things. They are tiny and hard to see, and nearly impossible to kill. They squirm away quickly. They are impervious to most pesticides. They don’t crush easily under a shoe, because they are already rather flat and sit close to the floor.

After last year’s maggot incident, I was careful to seal my organic waste in a plastic bag before throwing it in the bin. Or I just took it straight out to the big trash can in the garage. But this summer, I forgot about the maggots. I let my guard down.

Yesterday morning, I strolled into the kitchen and commenced making coffee. Standing there sleepily, waiting for the kettle to boil, I noticed something small and white in the middle of the floor. I tried to deny it at first. But upon closer inspection, I saw my suspicions were true. I scanned the floor and saw about 10 more white wriggly things. I gingerly opened the lid to the bin, and a stream of expletives flowed from my mouth. Fu@%ing maggots!

I counted backward and realized I hadn’t taken the trash out in five days. Not because I’m lazy, but because the bag was only half full. I don’t generate much garbage these days, as it’s just me. I then remembered that the first thing I threw into the trash five days before, right after changing the bag, was the skin of a pineapple. Fu@%ing stupid!

I don’t want to sound old-fashioned, but at times like this it really sucks not to have a man around the house. And of course it was Wednesday, the one day of the week when Lucky doesn’t work at the Lucky 5 Star.

I grabbed a broom and started sweeping the disgusting larvae straight out the kitchen door, onto the front step. When I thought I’d gotten them all, I turned to the bin. Luckily none of the maggots had escaped to the outside of the bin yet, so I held my breath, picked the whole thing up, and marched it to the garage. I dumped all the contents into the big trash can, and left the kitchen bin outside my door.

The worst was over. I watched the swept-up maggots (still alive, of course, as no broom can kill a maggot) wriggling on the pavement outside. I looked into the kitchen and spied a few strays. I began to think that maggots make interesting photography subjects. I fetched my camera.

I call this work “Arch-backed Maggot”.

“Maggot Shadows on my Kitchen Floor”

“Maggots on Pavement”

The following photo portrays the bottom of my kitchen bin. Whose idea was it to design a trash bin with crevices at the bottom? They are impossible to clean and the perfect spot for maggot-spawning.

“Reflections on Maggots” 

After my photo session, I sprayed some RAID into the bin and onto the front step. It had little impact on the maggots but made me feel better nonetheless. Lucky gave the bin a thorough cleaning today, so all is well.

Fun photography aside, I’ve had my fill of maggots for the year. I’ll be more vigilant from now on. Hopefully I won’t forget next summer.

If you have experienced pain and suffering due to maggots (if you live in South Africa, you probably have), check out this website that a friend sent me: It includes tips on how to kill maggots and lots of interesting and disgusting stories about maggot infestation. Enjoy!

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  • Reply katarzynapawelczyk March 1, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Thank you Heather. I was hungry but now I will proably die due to the fact I won’t be abe to eat again. EVER.

    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      Sorry! I guess lunch-time was not the best time to publish this.

      • Reply katarzynapawelczyk March 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm

        Well I will be honest – there is one thing that tops bin maggots – last time when Andrew was in Zambia he came back with a red welt on his chest. He thought it was an ingrown hair or something – until he pulled a larvea out of it one night in Switzerland. Turns out a bot fly laid eggs in his damp clothes, which then didn’t get ironed properly and voila!

        • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm

          OMGOMGOMGOMG. That definitely tops maggots. Although “tops” doesn’t seem like the right word. Now I’m not hungry either. But I guess I deserved that.

    • Reply MartinaInJozi March 1, 2012 at 1:38 pm

      hahah Kate!

  • Reply zimbo64 March 1, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    You are lucky that you don’t live in Harare, Zimbabwe. All clothes that are dried outside MUST be ironed with a hot iron otherwise the putzi flies (the flies that bring the maggots) lay eggs on your clothes. The larvae then get into your skin and grow. My little sister once had a towelling nappy that was not ironed and she had 30+ maggots in her little bottom! A friend from South Africa hung a polyester dress outside and did not know to iron it – she had about 50 maggots on her back – she only realised a few days later when her back got very itchy! See this article!

    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 1:22 pm

      OMGOMG. See comment above from katarzynapawelczyk. Sounds like you are talking about the same thing. That is truly horrifying. I will remember this when I’m in Zambia and Zimbabwe, for sure. And I will use the hottest iron imaginable.

      • Reply Jaco Roets March 3, 2012 at 12:07 pm

        AaaaaaRGHhhhhh! I am going to take a shower now… Creepy crawlies. Mia will pass out if she reads these comments. Those nasty flies are deeeeesgusting.

  • Reply Deano March 1, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    I hate to say it but you are too funny! These have to be THE BEST maggot pictures that I’ve ever seen!


    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm

      Thanks Dean! Have you actually seen ANY maggot photos before? I figured I was the first person ever to be crazy enough to photograph them.

  • Reply MartinaInJozi March 1, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Jeyes Fluid seems to have saved me from this awful phenomenon! We use it every week in the bin and it gets rid of all nasties…bought it in Pick n Pay!

    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      We definitely need to start doing that.

      • Reply MartinaInJozi March 1, 2012 at 1:45 pm

        I was lectured in the store by a stranger – make sure you add the fluid to the water and not the other way around. Apparently the bin will explode otherwise. On the plus side, there will be no maggots!

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough March 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    Yuck! I saw on Facebook yesterday that you had had a bit of an “issue.” There was a serious (and oringally hidden) maggot infestation at one of the houses Sara rented for her staff in Haiti. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter them. Bless your heart, Heather!

    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      Ugh. I know every organism serves a purpose in this world, but seriously, why does the world have to have maggots?!

      I’m glad YOUR house in Haiti didn’t have them 🙂

  • Reply eremophila March 1, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    LMAO! Hilarious post Heather! Ha! Next time I come across blow-fly maggots, I’ll remember to photograph them, with a ruler nearby, so you can see how big we get them Downunder!
    Just to keep things completely gross, I heard a story once, about a bush cook who served up a rice medley…. it was dark, and no-one noticed at the time, the extra creatures crawling around in it….
    Enough to put you off fried rice forever eh?!
    Oh well, you wanted some new experiences didn’t you! ♥

    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      I’ve heard a lot of good (or bad?) maggot stories since this happened to me yesterday. This one is pretty high up there. I’ll be sure to eat my rice under good lighting conditions from now on.

  • Reply eremophila March 1, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Reblogged this on Travels with Fred and commented:
    It’s a pity Heather didn’t call me to help deal with this problem – woof!
    I reckon my bones taste better when they are ‘moving’ a bit – yap!

  • Reply Owls March 1, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    My horrifying maggot story was at Squirrel Hill, when I was very young, and Mary Mac was keeping a rabbit hutch kind of near where the pig pen is now. We went out to check them one morning and they were alive and crawling with maggots. Mary Mac freaked out…and so did I!! Don’t know why that happened or what became of the rabbits, but Aunt Frances came out and shooed us away. It was awful.

    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      You mean the rabbits were covered in maggots? That’s so horrible. Now I’m not hungry and I want to cry.

  • Reply Mr Bunny Chow March 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm

    tumbledryers are as effective at killing Putzi Fly Larvae as irons if you have access to one.

    • Reply 2summers March 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm

      Do putzi flies exist in South Africa? Now I’m freaking out.

  • Reply Sine March 2, 2012 at 6:10 am

    Hello? Waiting on the answer re putzi flies in South Africa? Please tell me it isn’t so. Heather, you definitely topped all the Parktown Prawn stories. I was reluctant to even click on your post. I HATE maggots. Have just put Jeyes on my shopping list.

    I have always wondered why all domestics seem to love ironing, and ironing EVERYTHING. The putzi fly defense might be an explanation:-)

    • Reply 2summers March 2, 2012 at 8:57 am

      Yes, I have a new respect for ironing now as well. Lice don’t sound fun either!

      • Reply Jaco Roets March 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm

        They only live in the extreme north. I have heard of isolated incidents closer to northern pretoria. But we dont have them in joburg. They need lots of heat and humidity apparently. Dainfern had an outbreak last year. Ok Sine, I’m joking!

        • Reply 2summers March 3, 2012 at 12:36 pm

          Hahahaha! Get out that iron, Sine.

      • Reply Sine March 3, 2012 at 3:04 pm

        Whew! I actually read this on my phone first, and it took a while to scroll to “just kidding.” I just about had a heart attack. I am grossed out by very few things, but stuff living under your skin is one of them!

  • Reply Sine March 2, 2012 at 7:40 am

    Oh, and while we’re on the topic of gross stuff, the one I hated most was head lice. On the child of course with the longest and thickest hair. I found msyelf searching through their hair for months, looking for nits…

  • Reply Fiver March 2, 2012 at 9:42 am

    “I’ve had my fill of maggots.” is probably not the most sensitive way of phrasing it. Very funny indeed.

    • Reply 2summers March 2, 2012 at 10:14 am

      Hmm, good point. Another reason to avoid cliches.

  • Reply Lu March 6, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Eeeeuuuuww. Just eeeuuuww…
    We’ve had maggots in the outside wheelie-bin before… A long-distance hosing did the trick.
    Jeyes is amazing. It also gets rid of nits – but makes your (well, the 4 kids that I hang out with from time to time, aka “The Pink Tornadoes”) head(s) stink of disinfectant for a week… (only needs a microscopic amount to do the job).

  • Reply Alexioso January 18, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    I had goosebumps reading this!!!! Ugggggg

    • Reply 2summers January 18, 2016 at 5:27 pm

      I know. So gross.

  • Reply Ferret January 9, 2017 at 1:38 pm


    I came across your blog through a google search on maggots and botflies. My brother and his wife recently returned from a holiday at SunCity and brought more than wonderful memories with them. Growing under their skin were larvae of what I’m only assuming is botfly. It leaves a painful swelling around the bite site, which is extremely itchy and red. We thought is was a bed bug. However, when after applying petroleum jelly over the bite sites, we saw maggots wriggling halfway through their skin, we knew something more sinister lay lurking beneath. It apparently needs air to survive and blocking your pores with Vaseline, Vicks vapour rub or nail polish, believe it or not, will bring them to the surface where one can easily remove them with a pair of tweezers.

    New-found respect for flies! Thanks for your blog….we learn new things everyday!

    • Reply 2summers January 9, 2017 at 2:55 pm

      Oh my goodness, that is truly horrifying. Thanks for the comment — now I know NEVER to go to Sun City ever ever ever. Sorry for your brother and sister-in-law!

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