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: http://www.maggots.co.za/. It includes tips on how to kill maggots and lots of interesting and disgusting stories about maggot infestation. Enjoy!

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