Bug Blog

The Insect That Consumes The Flesh From Living Humans

Many people cannot help but to have a macabre fascination with the how dead flesh is consumed by insects. This widespread fascination is likely associated with the field of forensic entomology, or at least how forensic entomology is portrayed in popular TV shows about crime investigations. The insects that make a habit out of feeding on dead flesh are commonly referred to as carrion insects. While TV crime dramas have brought the topic of carrion insects to the mainstream, the fact that there also exists plenty of insects that feed on the flesh of living humans is not as well known. Some types of insects that feed on the flesh of living humans are obscure and rarely encountered, luckily. However, you would be surprised to learn that some common insects that are encountered regularly during the summer months also have a taste for live flesh, including the flesh of living humans.

Flies, like bot flies and blowflies, are well known for feeding on dead flesh, and these types of flies are categorized as carrion flies, or simply, flesh eating flies. But the Tumbu fly is an exception in that it prefers to feed on the flesh of living humans. These flies seek out clothing that has been contaminated with human waste, namely fecal matter and urine. The Tumbu fly lays eggs on these contaminated clothes and when the clothes are worn by humans, the eggs will burrow into flesh. When the eggs hatch, the larvae remain below the skin where it feeds on flesh, blood and tissue. In response to this feeding, a boil or abscess will develop on the skin and, eventually, it will erupt with puss. These infections are extremely dangerous and can lead to death. Simply ironing or drying clothes on high heat is sufficient to kill Tumbu fly eggs, but hopefully, most people can avoid wearing clothes that are contaminated with fecal matter and urine. Common horse flies and deer flies may not feed on human flesh for extended periods of time, but these flies are notorious for biting chunks of flesh from living humans. In fact, swarms of horse and deer flies have been known to consume flesh and blood from living animals, most notably horses and farm animals. Luckily for humans, horse and deer flies prefer to feed on animals.

Have you ever sustained a bite from a flying insect?