What’s a Mango fly, and are they a problem in South Africa? Read this update of one of our most popular blogs to find out.
The Mango fly or Cordylobia anthropophaga is a species of blow-fly commonly found in West and Eastern Africa. It goes by many names, including the tumbu fly, tumba fly, putzi fly, or skin maggot fly, and these common names give an indication of what the Latin name means: the word anthropophaga derives from the Greek word anthropophagous, or “human eater”.
Whilst the Mango fly has been endemic to the subtropics of Africa for the last 135 years, 2018 saw reports of a Mango fly outbreak in Pretoria, possibly due to higher than usual rainfall which created the perfect breeding condition for these flies in local gardens. Whilst dogs and rodents are the most common hosts for Mango flies, humans can also become infected if precautions aren’t taken.
Mango Fly: The Human Eater!
Imagine going to sleep on freshly laundered bedding, only to wake up in the morning covered in pimples… Except that the pimples aren’t actually pimples; they’re the beginning of a condition called cutaneous myiasis (a skin condition caused by the larvae of certain fly species). Within three days boil-like lesions occur, as the mango fly larvae feed on you!
At the site of penetration a red papule forms and then gradually enlarges. Initially, you experience slight, periodic itching, but the pain will develop and increase in frequency and intensity as the lesions develop into boils. It may even be possible to see or feel the larvae wiggling under the skin at this stage. The boils then burst, allowing the pus and blood to drain out.
The worms continue to eat away at you, maturing under your skin (they go through three distinct larval stages before reaching the prepupal stage). After which the maggot squirms out of your violated skin, drops to the ground, buries itself and pupates. It then becomes an adult mango fly, able to reproduce and begin the disgusting cycle all over again.
Where do Mango flies lay their eggs?
Female mango flies lay their eggs in soil contaminated with urine or faeces. They also lay their eggs in the seams of clothing, bedding, towels, and other soft materials that have been left outdoors.
Items that smell of sweat attract mango flies, but freshly washed clothes or bedding can also attract them. Clothing that’s dropped to the ground and laundry that’s being air-dried outside are some examples of places where mango fly eggs may be laid, and because they are very small, they usually go unnoticed.
The larvae hatch within 2-3 days and start searching for a mammalian host (such as a dog, rodent, or person). If the larvae hatch in soil, any disturbance of the soil causes them to wriggle to the surface and penetrate the skin of the host. The larvae can survive without a host for up to two weeks, but as soon as they make contact with a host, they burrow painlessly under the skin and the horrible cycle begins.
Treatment for Mango flies
Unfortunately, there is no medication that will kill the larvae; you simply have to wait for them to mature and emerge. It is possible to remove mango fly larvae yourself, although the process may be safer and more comfortable when done by a doctor. Seeing a doctor will also help reduce the risk of infection, should any larvae remain under the skin.
Mango worms don’t cause any serious health risks (besides being extremely gross) and they don’t carry other diseases, however, be sure to thoroughly disinfect the area after the larvae have been extracted.
How to prevent Mango fly infestation?
Because mango flies are known to lay their eggs in contaminated soil, resist the urge to walk barefoot anywhere that may have a Mango fly problem (or sit, or lie on the ground for that matter).
If you are in an environment where the mango fly is prevalent, machine dry laundry wherever possible, and if not possible, then iron everything carefully after drying outdoors. Make sure to pay special attention to the seams of fabric, as the heat from ironing will kill the larvae.
Rentokil are the experts when it comes to helping you get rid of flies. We have a range of fly control solutions and pest control services suitable for your home or your business, and our experts are always available to provide information and advice regarding even the most obscure pest problems.
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