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Swedish insect shoots larvae into victims' eyes

TT/Rebecca Martin · 4 May 2011, 16:05

Published: 04 May 2011 16:05 GMT+02:00

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“It was uncomfortable and hurt a bit,” said Malin Hallgren who had 30 eggs ejected into her eye by the insect.

Bot fly larvae is a parasite that mainly feeds on the mucus of elks and deer.

Up until recently the insect was only found in elks in the north of Sweden but it has now been detected as far south as Jönköping, in the county of Småland, south of Stockholm.

A full grown insect measures around two centimetres and looks a bit like a hairy fly or a bumble bee. After mating the female looks for an appropriate host for her offspring.

This is usually elks or deer, but sometimes, she will mistake human eyes for elk nostrils.

The pregnant female shoots her already hatched larvae at the host animal’s nostrils. The larvae travel into the nose where they feed on mucus.

From there the larvae wriggle down to the throat where they reach their third stage of development.

When the larvae reach about 4 centimetres their movements tickle the nose of the animal, which sneezes them out together with mucus and blood on to the ground where they then continue to the next stage in their development.

In an article in the Swedish medical paper Läkartidningen, professor of entomology Thomas G T Jaenson describes such an attack on a Swedish woman in a forest in central Sweden last autumn.

According to Jaenson, the fly was hovering close to the woman’s face and suddenly shot “several microscopic larvae” into one of her eyes.

About 30 whitish larvae were later removed from the eye, but she had a persistent feeling of “creeping larvae” in the eye and nose area.

Later that day two more larvae were removed.

Three similar, previously published cases also took place in the late summer last year in Finland.

The victims said it was like they were being "slapped in the face by a branch" while walking in the woods.

Story continues below…

According to Jaenson, the larvae rarely, if ever, reach stage two in human hosts. But they will cause conjunctivitis in the eye, with symptoms such as a stinging or burning sensation, increased tear flow and an aversion to light.

If the larvae are not removed they will attach themselves to the cornea and the eyelid. If one was to penetrate into the eye the damage could potentially be extensive.

Jaenson’s advice to members of the public who enjoy walking in the woods is to immediately swat away any bumble bee-like insects that seem to hover in front of the face.

“Otherwise there is a risk of getting small larvae shot at one of your eyes, “ he wrote.

TT/Rebecca Martin (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

16:43 May 4, 2011 by William Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha
Right, that's it, I'm leaving. When's the next plane to anywhere?
17:49 May 4, 2011 by Tanskalainen
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
18:39 May 4, 2011 by Swedesmith
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
19:11 May 4, 2011 by Tanskalainen
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
19:39 May 4, 2011 by swedejane
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
20:12 May 4, 2011 by expatjourno
I'm outta here.
21:50 May 4, 2011 by Frank Lee
Let's get this straight: global warming is causing insects to migrate south?
23:48 May 4, 2011 by Bigd
""Jaenson's advice to members of the public who enjoy walking in the woods is to immediately swat away any bumble bee-resembling insects that seem to hover in front of the face. ""

erm...how about to just wear Sunglasses!

00:22 May 5, 2011 by lordmagneto
A bumble bee-resembling fly hovering in front of your face could be an elk bot fly preparing to shot larvae into your eyes.

Isn't this a typo. "preparing to shot larvae" instead of "preparing to shoot larvae"? Just curious. That's one funny bug.
07:09 May 5, 2011 by Tdye
what!...i just...what?

i guess Sweden cant be all beautiful land and women, guess there had to be something crazy there
12:20 May 5, 2011 by Angry Ami

LOL, funny none of the experts quoted in the article brought that up
12:20 May 5, 2011 by flintis
Funny they should mention this, I have seen several of what I believed to be harmless Bee's in my garden in the last weeks, now I know to swat 'em.
12:25 May 5, 2011 by thindi
Swedish Insect? I don't think insects have nationalities. What about incidents in Finland? Were those insects Swedish or Finnish? I always see some Swedish, Sweden prefixes with almost all the article.
14:41 May 5, 2011 by Grindsprint
I´ll be spending this summer indoors :S
19:09 May 5, 2011 by Tanskalainen
I'm depressed that they removed my post. I think I'll walk in the woods and let a fat bumble-bee squirt me.
23:28 May 5, 2011 by soultraveler3
Yuck! :/

Think I'll hang out indoors along with Grind lol.
12:19 May 6, 2011 by DamnImmigrant
@William Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha - "Right, that's it, I'm leaving. When's the next plane to anywhere?"

My thoughts EXACTLY!!! I'm still laughing! I love it when "truer words" ARE spoken.

Suddenly I do not mind wearing glasses! Normally I just ask the bug in my face to go away but now I will have no problem forcefully removing them.

I think the title gave me the impression that the eggs went INSIDE the eyeball. I suppose it should have said "Swedish insect shoots larvae AT victims' eyes" - then again, maybe the title is correct.
12:55 May 6, 2011 by DamnImmigrant
If the picture shows what they really look like - DAMN - I too just thought they were bees! Shouldn't this kind of info be out there more?
15:09 May 6, 2011 by Wireless.Phil
There is a Flick'r photo of one of these and it looks nothing like the one posted in this article. The hover-fly colors are reversed, black on the head and tail, light orange or golden band in the middle.

Flick'r: "Hoverfly resembling a bumble bee"

15:49 May 6, 2011 by eovti
This is one of the scarier things I've read lately :-O
15:47 May 8, 2011 by motAB
Cool! It seems that evolution has just found another way...
15:04 May 9, 2011 by mikewhite
Watch out for an egg-shaped thing that fires its larva which clasps over your throat ... especially if you're John Hurt.
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