These flies (Cordylobia anthrophaga: Family Calliphoridae) are different from bot flies, both taxonomically and in their biology. A related species, the Lund Fly (Cordylobia rhodaini) has similar habits. Both flies are found in central Africa.
The adult flies lay their eggs on wet laundry hanging out to dry, or in the soil or sand. Within two days, larvae hatch, and can remain alive for up to two weeks. During that time, if they come into contact with skin, they burrow in.
You put your beach towel on the ground–oops. You hang out your sheets to dry, bring them back in–oops. In fact, laundry seems to be the most mentioned way to get infected.
Since not everyone has an electric or gas dryer in the affected area, one solution is to iron all your clothes–including underwear. Quite a drag, but better than maggots inside you.
If you’ve got tumbu flies, the home remedy is quite similar to a bot fly–cut off the larva’s source of oxygen. Like bot flies, they are in you head-first, with their hind end sticking out slightly so they can breathe. By covering the opening in your skin, the hope is to try to make the maggot back out of the skin enough for you to grab and pull them out. Mineral oil or Vasoline seems to be the most common way of covering the openings. Fortunately, these maggots seem to be much more cooperative than bot flies when it comes to removal, and rarely require medical intervention.
Of course, you could just wait the 8 weeks or so it takes for them to mature, and the maggots will come out on their own….
- A short scholarly article, with life cycle info
- Medical article (with photos) about a breast infected with over 20 larvae. Read at your own risk. (Oh, and a video of extraction. EW.)
- A list of all the myiasis causing flies, for maximum paranoia
- Source of image I used, although I’m pretty sure it’s a scan from the Photo Atlas of Medical Arthropods.
- An interesting read: Peace Corps Doctor’s Diary. I can’t say enough about how great Peace Corps folks are, and this includes a tumbu fly story.
EDITED TO ADD: I had to laugh at this statement of how to diagnose fly myiasis vs. a cellulitic infection: “sensations of movement within the lesion are important clinical clues to the diagnosis.” Uh Huh. That would be a hint, alright!