Saturday, July 2, 2011


In English, "bot fly". Last week I noticed my dog, Madona, licking the base of her tail. I thought to myself, "Damn flea collars don't last for crap." But when I went to check her out and put some flea and tick spray on her until I could get to the veterinaria in Liberia for another collar, I noticed a couple of holes in her skin and some soupy ooze coming out of them. Looked like she had been clawed by a cat, though I thought the location unusual - dogs usually get clawed on the head, not the butt.

So I got out my pop veterinary kit and injected an antibiotic cream into the holes as I've done so many times in the past. I've had some experience putting my dogs back together again after fights and what not. My dog, Garcia, had a fight with an anteater one time and I had to Superglue the drooping skin from the razor sharp claw cuts on his head back together so he could see out of his eyes. His whole scalp was falling off his skull (Don't worry, he made a full recovery).

The next day I examined Madona again and noticed more holes near her rear groin. That's when I got a bit panicky and decided to bring her to the vet. My wife said it looked like "gusanos", or worms. The word is used here to describe any type of internal, creepy-crawly parasite.

After a quick shave around the openings for a better look, the vet discounted parasites and said the holes were from "un animal salvaje" - a wild animal! She said it looked like Madona had been attacked from behind by a skunk, pizote (coati) or mapache (racoon) and gave me some anitbiotic pills and spray to treat her with for a week.

A couple of days later things weren't getting any better and I started thinking about the gusanos again. I gave the skin around one of the holes a squeeze and noticed something just under the surface inside the hole. I gave it a big squeeze and was able to get my finger nails clamped around something shiny, whiteish-transluscent but very tough in texture. I gave it a good, steady pull and was amazed at what came out of the hole. It was a creepy-crawly parasite alright! Right out of The X-Files. I counted the holes. There were eight. 1 down, 7 more torsalos to go!

Long story short, I decided to treat Madona myself. Torsalos are pretty common here. I've seen them removed from people a few times. There's a sensational video of a British tourist who gets a torsalo in Costa Rica and has it removed by a doctor in London click here. But I had never seen any torsalo larvae this freakin' big! And I had never removed one myself. It's an interesting "sensation", to say the least. I kinda like it, in a weird way.

So I borrowed some Larvacida (a purple spray commonly used on livestock for such parasites, that either kills them or makes them want to leave their host, while keeping any wounds free of infection) and started spraying into the holes and around them twice a day. Madona has been responding well to the treatment and is down to one torsalo - though she looks pretty freaky with a purple hiny!

How to remove a torsalo

I did some research on the internet on bot flies and found this informative video from Animal Planet click here that explains their whole life cycle. Everyone had told me that the fly lays its eggs on the skin of its host, the eggs hatch and the larvae burrow under the skin and live there until they're ready to leave. NOT ENTIRELY TRUE! And this is why I am curiously drawn to these creepy things...

...The bot fly lays its eggs on the belly of a mosquito! It's the mosquito, not the fly, that then lands on the host. The eggs drop off the mosquito's belly upon encountering body heat. They then hatch and the larvae burrow in and live under the host's skin for 6 weeks. Then they leave the host, fall to the ground, burrow into the dirt and emerge as a fly 4 days later! That has to be one of THE MOST AMAZING LIFECYCLES in all of Nature! I can't believe it even works! And how did it evolve?! Mind blower!

Every time I think I've seen it all, I get thrown a curve ball. Though torsalos are more like a "slider". ¡Pura vida!

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