The beautiful beautiful hairy maggot blowflies

10 Jan
Pair of iridescent green and blue hairy maggot blow flies with red eyes.

A pair of hairy maggot blow flies.

I posted a while back on maggot art as an outreach activity, and in that post I made the claim that adult hairy maggot blowflies are quite lovely.  My friend (and forensic entomologist) Meaghan Pimsler has come to the rescue, providing a gorgeous set of photos in defense of this claim.  She was also kind enough to give me some additional information on the biology of these interesting flies.

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Chrysomya rufifacies, the hairy maggot blowfly is invasive in the US, and native to the pan-Asian region.  They are of interest to forensic entomologists partly because the young maggots are predators and cannibals.  The adult flies often lay their eggs on carcasses with fly eggs of other species so that their offspring can feed on the other maggots.  Not only does this set up some interesting ecological interactions between the invasive species and native flies, but the patterns of colonization of various flies help forensic entomologists to determine time of death for corpses.

A red-eyed green and blue slightly fuzzy blow fly (Calliphoridae).

Iridescent green-blue-gold coloration of the adult hairy maggot blow fly.

 Interestingly, these flies have monogenic sex determination, meaning that each female will lay only male or only female offspring.  Also, hairy maggot blowflies are not very cold tolerant, and so each year they start out confined to the southern US states, and then successive waves colonize farther north.  They can reach as far as Canada before it gets too cold for them.
Close up of the red eyes and mouthparts of a blue green Chrysomya rufifacies fly.

Who could say no to this cute face?

On a less attractive note, in Australia and Thailand, where these flies are considered native, they have been recorded to cause myiasis in both humans and animals.  Myiasis is a really lovely (I’m just kidding; it’s gross) parasitic infection wherein fly larvae develop in the tissue of a living mammal.  In the case of humans and flies, this is most likely to mean maggots infesting a open wound, although a few types of flies (most famously the botfly) can burrow into unbroken skin and develop under the surface.

Courtship mating interaractions of blow flies (Calliphoridae)

A group of hairy maggot blow flies viewed under a scope.

Thanks again to Meaghan for pics and info!

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2 Responses to “The beautiful beautiful hairy maggot blowflies”

  1. linbok January 15, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    FYI: Maggot Blowflies are NOT beautiful.

  2. linbok February 7, 2014 at 6:09 pm #

    They are not beautiful beautiful either.

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