In the jaguar reserve in Belize, the forest was filled with bottle flies (also known as bot flies or botflies). The bites itched like crazy for days. As it turns out, that is not the whole story. Around the time we got back to the US, Tara began complaining of two sores on her head that burned and caused a lot of pain. We believed them to be bug bites and she thought maybe her winter hat was to blame for the irritation since she had not previously worn it. But when the "bites" did not go away, we started searching on the Internet for possible causes.
Yesterday, we finally hit the jackpot with these websites: One and Two. These sites describe the botfly, a Central American fly known for laying larvae in humans that cause a lot of pain. Tara's symptoms perfectly fit those described. I was nearly giddy that Tara had some worms living in her head and couldn't wait to see them. Tara was, well, the opposite of giddy. So, we set out to try to get the two little guys to show themselves to confirm the diagnosis.
Because they breathe air through a little hole, we were able to cover to hole with Vaseline. Bingo. Out came the tips of the worms through the Vaseline to breathe. As soon as I went near them, they went back into her head at lightning speed. So, to try to kill them, she tried taking an Epsom salt bath and keeping her head under the water for almost an hour. Some people reported that this works well, and it seemed like an easy solution. As soon as she dried her hair, I could see the little fellows gasping for air. Apparently, they had been getting breath-holding lessons from David Blaine.
Next, we covered them with New-Skin for the night to cut off their air supply. New-Skin is basically fingernail polish that is meant to go on small cuts and scrapes for protection. This morning when we got up, we peeled the New-Skin off one of them and the dead worm was visible. I just had to pull him out slowly with some tweezers. He was way longer than I expected and just kept coming. However, the other one was not to be seen. I hoped that he was dead, but when I repeated the Vaseline trick, out he came. We covered him with New-Skin again, but he ate right through it. We're trying again and will use super glue if that doesn't work. The good news is that he has apparently stopped eating Tara's flesh while fighting for his life so he isn't as painful.
Now for the pictures! The first is the hole in her head. In the middle of the hole, you will see a small white dot. That is the head of the larva sticking out. The second is the worm (we will call him George) after extraction sitting on my first-aid kit. You can see the lettering on a Band-aid for a size comparison. The little black things you can see are barbs that it used to stay stuck inside her.
We hope to get the second one out soon. Now is your chance to suggest a name for the second one! If the name is good enough, maybe Tara will let him grow to be full size (about the size of a caterpillar), but that's a lot of Tara's head that it would have to eat, so the name will have to be really good.
(Note from Tara: FYI, I just wanted to note that these are not in any way contagious or transferable from human to human, or human to pillowcase, or anything like that, so if I have slept at your house recently, you have nothing to fear! They can only live inside the body, and can only reproduce once they have reached the adult fly stage, which is never going to happen here in the US. Still, bleh.)
Addendum: On the morning of January 4, we were able to pull the second, larger, larva out of Tara's head. Based on our experiences, we suggest covering the hole with an thick layer of New-Skin (or fingernail polish if that's all you have), letting it sit overnight, then pulling it off. The head of the suffocated worm is likely to be there ready to pull out. If the larvae are not in your head but elsewhere in your body, it seems that some good old duct tape would be just as effective and easier to apply/remove.