Of all the critters we occasionally share our homes with, there are none quite so unwelcome as maggots. They might not bite like mosquitos or munch through insulation like crickets, but few other creatures can inspire as much disgust as these small, wiggly beasts. The bad news is that they’re remarkably common. The good news is that they’re easy to avoid and just as easy to get rid of. Here’s everything you need to know about why you might have maggots in the house, and what to do if you have.
What is a Maggot?
Before we start looking at how maggots may have got in your house and what you can do to get rid of them, a quick explanation about what a maggot actually is might be in order. Contrary to what some people think, a maggot isn’t a type of worm or a wingless insect. Rather, it’s the larvae of a fly. Depending on the type of fly it came from, a maggot will be anything between two and three millimeters in length. One of the most common types of maggot that’s found in houses is from the Calliphoridae family, but other types such as fruit flies and plant flies may also be to blame for maggot infestations.
Where Do Maggots Come From?
According to completehomemaker.com, maggot flies undergo six different life stages: the egg, three larval stages, pupae, and adult fly. It starts by finding an attractive spot to lay its eggs. A fly’s idea of ‘attractive’ is a little different from ours, and will usually involve rotting garbage, plants, or soil. Essentially, it wants to make sure that its babies have a safe spot to hatch and easy access to food once they do. Once the eggs hatch (which can sometimes happen within just eight hours of being laid), the maggots will be released. As a fly can lay hundreds of eggs in a single sitting, your home can go from being maggot-free to completely infested in a matter of hours. Maggots will typically stay in this life stage for around eight to ten days. After that, they’ll change into flies and start laying eggs of their own.
Is a Maggot Infestation Serious?
Maggots might be disgusting, but like all things in nature, they serve a purpose. In this case, their job is to consume and clear decaying plant matter and carcasses. Ultimately, however, most of us are more than capable of keeping our homes free of dead plants and decaying carcasses without any extra help from maggots – whatever else a maggot infestation is, useful it’s not. But what about the danger? Is a maggot infestation a cause for alarm from a health perspective? Yes…and no. As pestshero.com says, maggots don’t necessarily do any lasting harm to humans. Touching them won’t hurt you, and while maggots can live in human flesh, it’s very, very rare for them to start munching their way through entire households. Most cases of myiasis (i.e. the parasitic infection that arises when screwflies, botflies, and blowflies lay their eggs in open wounds) usually happen in very extreme circumstances only. However, as maggots may occasionally carry diseases such as E Coli and salmonella, it’s best to use sanitary gloves when dealing with them and to ensure their removal as quickly as possible.
How Do Maggots Get In The House?
According to claus-hempler.com, the top causes of maggots in or around your home include improperly stored trash, excess dog feces, or the presence of an animal carcass. Basically, if there’s anything that could cause a bad smell, a fly won’t hesitate to lay their eggs in it. Expired food, trash that’s been sitting out for too long, a cat litter tray that needs changing… they’re all perfect breeding grounds from flies. As to how the flies get into your home in the first place… well, it’s not hard. An open window, a door left ajar, tiny cracks in the seals between windows – come summer, it’s almost impossible to find a house that doesn’t have a few flies buzzing around. Unfortunately, unless that house is kept scrupulously clean at all times, it won’t take those files long to start laying their eggs. The one thing you don’t need to worry about is maggots getting into your home when they’re already in maggot form. They aren’t going to crawl in from the street and they certainly can’t eat their way through concrete. The only reason you might have maggots is because a fly has visited on a day when you’ve forgotten to take the trash out or after a few days of not cleaning out the pantry.
Are There Different Types of Maggots?
Maggots all have tube-like bodies that end in a sharp point on one side and a blunt edge on the other. But while they all share common characteristics, there are actually several different types of maggots to be aware of. According to sciencing.com, some of the most common varieties of maggot you might come across include:
Apple maggots are one of the worst fruit pests in the US. As their name suggests, they feast on fruit. While they’re a menace to crops, they’re also not much fun to have around if you have any apples in your kitchen. An adult female fly will simply puncture the skin of any apple they come across before laying her eggs beneath the skin. After around 10 days, the maggots will hatch beneath the apple skin and eat their way out.
Root maggots love chomping down on root crops like onions, beets, and carrots. Although they’re more common outdoors, it’s also possible to get them indoors. Adult root maggots look like small houseflies and are extremely common.
Rattailed maggots, or drone flies, as they’re sometimes called, are grub-like, cylindrical creatures with long, slim, breathing tubes that look like tails. They are usually found in dung pits and stagnant water, where they feast on the decaying matter. Proper sanitization can usually prevent them from becoming a problem.
How To Get Rid Of Maggots
Knowing how maggots can get into your home is one thing. But how do you get rid of them once they’ve taken up residence? Fortunately, there are numerous methods you can use to get rid of a maggot infestation, most of which can be easily managed without professional help.
The Boiling Water Method
According to realhomes.com, if you find maggots in your garbage can or crawl space, boiling water is often the quickest and easiest way of getting rid of them. Simply set a large pot of water to boil for around 5 minutes. Once it’s boiling, pour it slowly and carefully over infected areas. Close the garbage bag to keep in the heat and remove it from the property. Avoid using this method on any walls or carpets that could be damaged by moisture.
The Diatomaceous Earth Method
As Wiki How says, Diatomaceous earth can be used for a huge range of cleaning and insecticide applications. Even if you don’t already have some around, it’s worth buying a jar to deal with both your current maggot infestation and various other pest problems in the future. Simply sprinkle enough of the diatomaceous earth over the maggots to completely cover them. The earth will draw any water from their bodies, essentially killing them through dehydration.
The Cinnamon Method
If there’s one thing maggots really don’t like, it’s cinnamon. Mix 1 part cinnamon to 5 parts water and slowly pour the mixture over the maggots. Come back six hours later and the maggots should be dead. If you haven’t any cinnamon to hand, apple cider vinegar makes a good alternative – however, be aware that this will take longer to kill the maggots, so set the clock for around 18 hours instead of 6.
The Lime and Salt Method
Many of the methods used to kill maggots rely on either dehydrating them or drowning them. The lime and salt method is another way of tackling infestations through dehydration. Simply mix 1/4 cup of lime (calcium hydroxide) with 1/4 cup of salt and sprinkle the mixture over the maggots until they’re completely covered.
The Freezing Method
If you’re dealing with a small infestation, simply gather them up in a dustpan, carefully pour them into a resealable bag, and then place the bag in the freezer. Once the maggots are dead (it’ll usually take an hour), dispose of them in the garbage.
The Chemical Cure
If you don’t mind using chemicals, there are several easy and effective methods to deal with a maggot infestation. As always when dealing with chemicals, wear a long-sleeved shirt and gloves, and make sure the area is adequately ventilated. Some of the methods to try include:
Permethrin sprays are usually used to deal with scabies and lice, but 2 or 3 sprays can also take care of maggots. If you don’t have any permethrin spray handy, check the back of your shampoo bottle. If permethrin is listed, mix 4 parts boiling water with 1 part shampoo and pour the mixture on top of the maggots. Be aware that permethrin is toxic to cats and dogs, so keep them well out of the way while the procedure is in process.
If you have a stray can of bug killer hanging around, give the affected areas 2 or 3 blasts. It could take around 30 minutes or more for the maggots to die, although sprays containing permethrin tend to be faster-acting.
Mix 1 cup of bleach with 1 cup of water and dump the mixture over the maggots. If you’re treating a trash can, make sure to close the lid afterward to keep the fumes in. After 30 minutes, rinse the affected area to wash away the maggots before adding another bowl of bleach and water to deter them from coming back.
How to Avoid Maggots in the House
When it comes to maggots, prevention is definitely better than cure. Fortunately, there’s plenty of tricks you can use to keep your house maggot-free. These include:
Use Essential Oils
Flies hate the strong smell of essential oils. Dilute a few drops of peppermint, bay leaf, or eucalyptus oil in water and use it to wipe down any commonly affected areas.
Don’t Thow Meat in the Trash Can
Flies love decaying meat and fish carcasses, mainly because they’re such an excellent spot to lay their eggs. To stop your trash can from turning into a breeding ground for maggots, try to keep any bones or meat away from it. Instead of throwing your bones straight in the trash, store them in the freezer so you can dump them all at once come garbage day. If you do need to add any to the trash can straight away, wrap them up in old newspapers or paper towels first.
Clean the Trash Can Regularly
The trash can is one of the most common places in the home to be affected by maggots. To minimize the risk of it becoming the epicenter of an infestation, scrub it out with a mixture of 1 part vinegar and 2 parts water each week. It’ll also help to empty it as soon as it becomes full or at least once a week otherwise. Always use a garbage bag so that stray pieces of food don’t become stuck in the can.
Clean the Garbage Disposal
It’s not just trash cans that can become infested with maggots: garbage disposals are also common hotspots for infestation. To keep yours maggot-free, clean it regularly by removing any trapped pieces of food with pliers before pouring a mixture of 1 tablespoon of bleach and 1 gallon of water down the disposal. It will also help to run the disposal for a little longer each time you use it, and avoid pouring anything greasy down it.